Dave Chapelle's BLOCK PARTY

I rented this DVD because other middle-aged white guys (such as Roger Ebert) said that it attempted to form a bridge to a culture I don’t have many dealings with (Hip-hop/rap/gangsta). Chapelle, whom I’ve never seen before, did seem like a pleasant enough guy, inviting elderly ladies from Ohio to attend an inner-city concert in Bed-Stuy, and I’d heard that the music tended to be less pointlessly hostile than much of the genre that I’d been exposed to, so I played it with an open mind and tried to learn what it had to offer.

I was bored silly. Admittedly, the DVD stopped working about an hour into the movie, so I didn’t get to hear the Fugee reunion I’d heard good things about (I’ve never heard the Fugees, nor Lauren Hill, as far as I know, but I’d been told that they sang some of the more melodic numbers in the show, so maybe I would have enjoyed that if I’d have heard it). But I found the lyrics vulgar and witless (I enabled the closed captioning so I could read them, because I certainly couldn’t have gleaned a syllable from the sound track alone), the comedy not especially funny (Chapelle had a fairly amusing bit at the expense of a black guy who wore a Mohawk, making all sorts of Mr. T. references, but even that went on for too long with too little point) and the political content went nowhere (at one point the son of a slain Black Panther takes the stage to insist that all black political prisoners be freed–unsurprisingly, with the term ‘political prisoners’ left completely undefined, the crowd supported this idea, though I doubt that many would have chosen to live next door to most of the freed ‘political prisoners.’ ) I just totally did not get the appeal of this supposedly sweet, charming, heart-warming, funny, quirky movie.

It could be, of course, that I’m a middle-aged white guy so I just didn’t sympathize with the young radical perspective, or that the second half was better than the first, but has anyone else tried to connect with this culture and just found it vapid? Maybe I’d just look at my own youthful culture and find it as lacking as I find this dreary noise, but maybe not.