Video Vault: Dave Chappelle’s Block Party

Dave Chappelle’s Block Party
2005 – Michel Gondry
Rated R: 103 mins.
Vault Rating: 8

Vault does not like rap music nor any of that hippity-hop music neither.

As a white kid growing up in Central Pennsylvania my idea of black music came from the powerful epicenters of Motown, James Brown and Parliament. But, at the time, I have to admit, I thought the Village People was cool too. I listened to things like Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio. “Brick House” was just awesome to me and I thought John Fogerty was black. He sure sounded black on “Down on the Corner” when my older brothers were blasting that on the stereo sufficient to summon the police.

Credit where it is due, I watched “Soul Train,” not “American Bandstand” but had little idea what all that Afro-Sheen stuff was about.

These days, I still think Will Smith is a very cool individual and the rap on “Big Willie Style” is pleasant. I prefer Eminem -some- and the Beastie Boys -a lot- to Vanilla Ice. Other than that, my chocolate twist world consists of one song each from Sir Mix-A-Lot and Coolio when it comes to rap and hippity-hop.

None of these people appeared in today’s feature, new out on video. “Dave Chappelle’s Block Party” tastes more of a concert film or documentary than a comedy. But as a concert film, it excels, and as a window for a white boy in Central Pennsylvania into where black culture is now, it is a crazy blast of information.

Now, Chappelle is an important comedian, I think. He reminds me so much of Richard Pryor, who maybe bridged the gap between Lenny Bruce and today. Chappelle is that guy who can appear in suburbia’s living rooms and lay some zany, double edged things down and still be welcomed back.

So when Chappelle decided to host a block party in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, at the corner of Quincy and Downing Street, in 2004, it also became a homecoming for some of the brightest lights in modern black music.

The location of the free of charge event was kept secret. People could register for tickets online but they weren’t told where the concert was going to take place nor who would appear. When they were bussed from remote areas to Bed-Stuy, they had walked into a cultural buzz-saw.

Appearing was Erykah Badu, Mos Def, The Roots and an unannounced reunion of The Fugees, as Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean and Pras performed together for the first time in seven years. There was Kanye West and Dead Prez and at least a dozen others all backed by a smoking house band. The result was a bouncing, joyous revel, the like of which I have never seen, and with a style of music at the top of its form.

Kurt Vonnegut once wrote that all music is sacred. After a look at this film and at a style of music Vault was really foreign to, I can relate. Many times throughout I found myself bouncing along as if I belonged there, giving an ear to unfamiliar viewpoints, laughing a lot.

Music and poetry, when mixed right, transform the artist into leaders, into powerful forces for unity. And humor, Dave Chappelle’s brand of humor, anyway, allows us to have the discussion without getting angry.

Hey! You’re welcome. And so are your comments. Drop us a line at and let us know if you think we’re crazy. Tell us what you’ve been watching lately. Whatever you want to talk about, wind ‘er up and let ‘er rip. We’re game. And until I get the entire soundtrack of “Dave Chappelle’s Block Party” downloaded … Enjoy!

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