Badassss and Hip-Hop Leadership

From an interview with Mario van Peebles on the film Badasssss in Campus Circle:

[Van Peebles] recalls a dinner party he had about five years ago with director friends, including John Singleton (Higher Learning), F. Gary Gray (The Italian Job) and Reggie Hudlin (House Party), during which they all reached the same conclusion: They were filmmakers who were being heavily persuaded not to make the films that they wanted to make. These were educated men who didn’t get into serious trouble, knew who their fathers were, “and yet we weren’t being allowed to make movies about people like us,” Mario relates.

“We were being told that all our audience wanted to see was modern-day minstrel shows, hip-hop comedies or shoot-em’-in-the-ass flicks,” Mario continues. We were being told that the audience we had wore baggy jeans, big sneakers and that’s about it. So there was a glass ceiling, and if we were lucky, we would be invited by the dominant culture to make movies like The Italian Job. [We were told that] that’s a good thing, and we should go out and make those films and show them we could do that as filmmakers. That it doesn’t have to do with race or anything — just make that film.”

Mario believes that if he or his friends want to make a film with people of color, you can’t make a Good Will Hunting because, as they were told by studio execs, the audience will have trouble following its complex storyline. “You couldn’t make a Lost in Translation for Hispanic folks or a mixed cast or a black cast,” he says. “Too complex. Audiences won’t follow it.”

From “The pretense of hip-hop black leadership by Dr. Martin Kilson, in The Black Commentator:

The fact of the matter is, there’s nothing whatever that’s seriously radical or progressive about hip-hop ideas and values. It is sad that there are university academics among us like Michael Dyson and Todd Boyd (respectively at the University of Pennsylvania and University of California) who fail to recognize the political emptiness of most hip-hop expression. Hip-hop entertainers and its entertainment modalities do not represent a “new worldview” for African Americans. Quite the contrary, the “hip-hop worldview” is nothing other than an updated face on the old-hat, crude, anti-humanistic values of hedonism and materialism.

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