The Reason Hip Hop Defends “Django Unchained”

January 18th, 2013

(Photo: Columbia Pictures)

By Gee King

There is a reason a number of hip hop stars, from Luke Campbell to Nas, have come to the defense of Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. A really good reason. When a star enters a new universe, freely blasting brilliant creativity through uncharted worlds, we must understand its purpose and push it to its destiny. With his highly hyped Slave-era Western, Django Unchained, film visionary Quentin Tarantino made an unavoidable crash into hip hop’s collective conscious at the close of 2012. But so far, his alien idea of Black and Jewish cowboys killing White slave owners has raised more questions for the culture than answers. Most notably, is the mainstream system that’s given Tarantino two decades to stretch the idea of America to its creative limits also a doomsday delivery machine for hip hop’s biggest fears? Could Hollywood be freeing the perverted ideas that will haunt our collective consciousness eternity? Or are his twisted messages the keys to understanding our deep dreams and shallow realities? We’ll need to spend more time thinking critically and speaking freely on Quentin and his art to find the true answer in the middle.

Since introducing himself to the world with 1992’s classic Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino’s genius has both propelled and limited his power for creativity. While mainstream Hollywood resisted his twisted charm at first, 1994’s Pulp Fiction definitively proved QT as a master of storytelling, earning the first of his three Oscar noms for Best Original Screenplay. But Django, his most recent masterpiece, skews his genius to the visual realm, reflecting negative feedback from some of the darker corners of America’s dreams. From Spike Lee, who continues to sink into his Lay-Z-Boy, creatively exhausted and content to heckle from the sidelines of the new American studio set, to Denzel, who famously G’d Tarantino during their collaboration on 1995’s Crimson Tide after objecting to the flippant use of racial epithets in his writing.

But even Denzel has softened his stance in recent years, admitting to BET in December of 2012 that he’d come to peace with his former foe, going so far as to bless the idea of his daughter Katia working with Quentin. “Life is something,” reflected Denzel, simply. The “something” where QT’s talents for raising tensions and triggering catharsis meet is where the gap between real world justice and America’s nightmares of slavery will close. The void may seem wide for now, but faith in hip hop’s soul and Hollywood’s spirit may be the light that guides America’s conscious past the hate that created it.

When a star lands before our eyes, we need to stop and think before acting on the energy it gives us. It’s OK to stare at the light as long as we respect its power and understand the truth of darkness. Culture allows us to both remember and forget, and keeping it balanced is the only way to keep our spark alive. So think about why Samuel L. Jackson and Jamie Foxx let this white man drop the n-bomb on their ears right before our varied eyes, just as well as you remember Spike and Denzel refused to hear it. The America that “gets” where both Quentin and Spike are coming from will finally restore order to the universe. The America that can act with the class and power of Sam and Denzel while looking these truths in the eye will keep the balance of power on the side of love. But the America that shields its eyes to the energy raised by both sides will stay lost in the past forever.

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