Before Dave Chappelle squandered a $50 million contract and took an impromptu trip to Africa to chill out, he did a genuinely nice thing for a lot of his fans.
The rainy weather on Sept. 18, 2004 was unexpected but not a reason to stop the 33 year-old, who had a serious agenda: to throw a block party in Brooklyn featuring all of his favorite hip-hop and R&B artists and invite thousands of people from New York City and Ohio to join him for free.
The event, documented by filmmaker Michel Gondry (‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’), featured some of the most successful and respected hip-hop and R&B acts out today, specifically Kanye West, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Common, Dead Prez, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, the Roots, Cody ChesnuTT, Big Daddy Kane and the full Fugees lineup for the first time in over seven years.
The result is ‘Block Party,’ a truly entertaining hip-hop concert movie inspired by the 1973 movie ‘Wattsax’ starring Richard Pryor.
The film follows Chappelle as he travels to his home town in Ohio as well as around Brooklyn to give random people a ‘golden ticket,’ which, for the Ohioans, got them a plane ticket, a hotel room, into the concert, and back home, all on Chappelle’s bill.
This journey is interspersed with the actual concert, Chappelle cracking jokes with his hip-hop friends and giving insight on the concert, his mission and cultural issues like the connection between hip-hop and comedy.
Chapelle notes that all rappers want to be comedians and that all comedians want to be rappers. This becomes clear as Chappelle does an old school joke-man-straight-man routine with the multi-talented Mos Def.
Chappelle modestly notes at one point on the two types of entertainment, ‘I am mediocre at both and yet have talked my way into a fortune.’
The moments with Chappelle, who also acts as emcee for the concert, are funny, and even heartfelt at times, though not hilarious in the way that one might expect, as everything is impromptu.
The unconventional partnership between comedic top-dog Chappelle and French director Gondry manifested while Gondry was on a tour bus with Chappelle and the two talked about the idea.
‘[Chappelle] mentioned to me his idea of getting all of his musician friends together for a concert,’ Gondry said in a press release. ‘What those friends have in common