I have been tearing through David Peisner’s Homey Don’t Play That!: The Story of In Living Color and The Black Comedy Revolution. I highly recommend it; it’s full of insights about both threads of the subtitle, and Peisner presents his findings in a very balanced manner, letting both a wealth of both major and minor players tell the story, then drawing his conclusions from that. Long about page 190, Peisner recalls the show’s then-choreographer Rosie Perez’s efforts to bring live music to the show (Keenan Ivory Wayans claims that was always going to happen, but I’m more convinced by rap music’s explosion on the show’s stage coinciding, more or less, with Perez’s arrival). This took me way back to the days that we (my wife, my few rap-oriented friends, and I) watched the show religiously, and how permanently their East Coast-leaning guests affected our taste, though I never could get much of a conversation going with my mid-Missouri 10th graders, who were West Coast fans all the way.
I was planning on finishing the book, but my repeated jumps to YouTube to watch clips (of the musical guests and the classic bits) foiled that goal. However, for your (and my) pleasure and convenience, here’s a playlist of ILC‘s hip hop highlights–at least the ones which have been uploaded:
Orquesta Akokán’s self-titled debut is fabulous. If you like Cuban music, the band’s a mix of young and old, and while on first listen you’re going to think the band’s playing classics, the material’s all original. The sessions took place in Havana, at the legendary state-run Arieto Studio, which reputedly was designed to get the most out of percussion instruments–especially congas and bongos. The evidence supports that claim. In my Top 20 for 2018, easily.
Nicole and I also attended Battle High School’s Pride Prom in the evening. Nicole had volunteered for supervision (she’s the district career center’s liaison to Battle) and I said I’d keep her company–honestly, I was planning on finishing the book! Fortunately, the event was too exciting to miss in favor of reading; it was very well-attended, the kids (and adults) were clearly having a blast, and the centerpiece was a drag show featuring participants from all of Columbia’s public schools. All the queens were energized and fun to watch, but the fifth of five contestants, Black Icing, knocked the crowd dead. Victory was by audience applause, and there was no doubt who reigned supreme.
I’d report the music, but, um, I guess I’m too disconnected from the charts since I only recognized one of the songs (and couldn’t name that one), and Battle is a concrete and steel fortress that forbids Shazaming. When I got home and started to look it up, of course, I instantly remembered it. A great choice it was:
Anyhow, as a southwest Missouri boy who taught in this red state’s public schools across four decades, I found myself shaking my head at the spectacle, in awe, amazement, joy, and HOPE. If that event is happening here, perhaps we are not completely lost.