Chappelle’s Block Party appeals to a limited audience, but doesn’t let that hold it back from being a wonderful mix of music and comedy.
“All comedians want to be musicians, and all musicians think that they are funny.” – Dave Chappelle
Unfortunately for most comedians they don’t have the deep pockets of talented musician friends that Dave Chappelle seems to have, making a vanity project such as Dave Chappelle’s Block Party completely unthinkable. Thankfully for fans of Mr. Chappelle’s brand of comedy and fans of hip-hop music everywhere, Dave does have the right friends and all the right ambitions necessary to bring some of the finest musical talents together on the silver screen.
In the fall of 2004, Dave Chappelle set out to throw his very own once-in-a-lifetime block party for 5,000 of his biggest fans. He spent days combing the streets of Southwestern Ohio, passing out golden tickets that would send hundreds across the country to Brooklyn, New York for what would become a monumental musical extravaganza. There these lucky few would hold witness to an awesome show, with performances from the likes of Kanye West, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Common, Dead Prez, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, and the Roots. They would also be treated to the historical reunion of Wyclef Jean, Pras and Lauren Hill – formally known as the Fugees. With a spectacular concert and a little bit of sketch comedy to fill in the holes, Chappelle and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind director Michel Gondry set forth to make the Block Party a moment in musical and comedy history that will not soon be forgotten.
If you are a fan of hip-hop music, there is nothing about this film that will not send chills up your spine. The music is absolutely electrifying, and seeing such amazing talent all assembled on the same stage brings a moment of disbelief, followed by many moments of musical bliss. Cut in between the shots of Dave Chappelle roaming the streets seeking ardent fans of hip-hop is the amazing concert, which begins with an electrifying performance from Kanye West, flanked by the infinitely talented John Legend. Then after performances from Mos Def, Common and Talib Kweli, the women of Chappelle’s Block Party take over and steal the entire show. Soulful and sexy, Erykah Badu and Jill Scott slow things down and heat things up with a few ballads.
This all precedes, of course, the moment of true genius on the part of Chappelle and whomever else helped him plan this event; the moment when Lauren Hill, Wyclef and Pras take the stage as the Fugees for the first time in over 7 years. Personally as a fan of the Fugees from the time I discovered The Score, I was amazed to see them all on stage together again. It solidified the musical experience for me, not only as a fan of the Fugees, but as a fan of hip-hop.
But lest we forget that these wonderful musical performances are all wedged in between the street-wise comedy bits of Dave Chappelle, which can at times be a little hokey. In some ways the film begins to appear more like a vanity project for Chappelle than a musical pilgrimage. Was it not for his obvious love of the music and his dedication to bringing his fans along for the ride, the message of this film would have been lost in a whirlwind of egotistical marketing ambitions by its leading man. Chappelle’s bits are funny to a point, but the real allure of this documentary is in the musical showcase that he assembles.
In the end, this film appeals to a fairly limited audience. You really have to either be a big fan of Dave Chappelle, a fan of hip-hop, or a fan of both in order to even be interested in the first place. The sad part for those of you who do not fit into the afore mentioned categories is that you are missing out an a wonderfully crafted musical experience, supplemented by some downright funny antics courtesy of one of America’s funniest men. Chappelle’s Block Party is funny, entertaining and above all original; making it well worth a spot in any music lover’s DVD collection.
The Upside: A musical treat combined with some hilarious comedy from Dave Chappelle.
The Downside: This one appeals to a very limited audience.
On the Side: Dave Chappelle funded this project with his own money.
Click here to buy the CD Soundtrack to Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, featuring original recordings from the film.
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