Rhymefest on ‘Chi-Raq’ Trailer: ‘Spike Lee Owes Chicago an Apology’
Spike Lee’s trailer for his upcoming film, Chi-Raq, has generated plenty of conversations on social media -- mostly due to critics who feel the clip inaccurately portrays the city of Chicago. Rapper and Chi-town native Rhymefest is vehemently opposing the trailer and says that Lee owes the city of Chicago a huge apology.
In a tweet, he wrote, “SpikeLee exploited poor people.”
Rhymefest extended is remark in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times.
The 38-year-old rapper, who runs Kanye West's Donda’s House, a community center which educates at-risk youth through various music and writing programs, feels that Lee’s film is trivializing the ongoing problems of violence in Chicago.
“I’d say [Spike Lee], you owe Chicago an apology. And you owe Chicago your presence to repair the damage," he tells the newspaper. "I would like you to come to Chicago and speak to more community leaders and Father [Michael] Pfleger [of St. Sabina Church]. Get with the people who have programs in the community that are effective, and support those programs.”
Lee's Chi-Raq is a satirical film that puts a contemporary twist on the mythological Greek comedic tale of Lysistrata, who gets the women of ancient Greece to withhold sex from their husbands and boyfriends as a way to end the Peloponnesian War. The movie stars Samuel L. Jackson, Angela Bassett, Nick Cannon and Jennifer Hudson. The clip features a group of women who decide to withhold sex from their gang-affiliated boyfriends in an effort to stop the violence in Chicago.
Rhymefest, who is one of the faces of Kenneth Cole’s new “Courageous Class” campaign, believes the film's premise makes a joke of a real problematic situation in the city. On top of that, the trailer comes after the recent tragic death of 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee who was shot multiple times in a Chicago alley.
“I grieved for the 9-year-old little boy who was shot [Tyshawn Lee], and now a comedy [Chi-Raq] is being made about death in Chicago," he said.
Although Rhymefest has not seen the actual movie, he has read an alleged script he received from an unidentified Chicago actor, who was fired from the film in favor of an out-of-towner. Whether the script was the complete version, he doesn't know, but he said the trailer supports what he read in the screenplay.
“Spike Lee should have used Chicago writers. None of them were from Chicago. This movie is not about a war. This is not a war," he states. "People like to say its gangs fighting over turf. That’s not it. It’s senseless violence. People feel disrespected and not validated. They’re poor. Guns are cheap. Drugs are cheap. Because guns and drugs are cheap senseless violence happens. The guns and drugs get into the hands of children."
"You can pick up the story of this film and drop it into any [city]. Chicago was used because of the media’s portrayal of the violence and it was used as a way for [Lee] to sell tickets," he continues. "We were used. We were exploited. This story is not specific to Chicago.”
Rhymefest insists he's a fan of Spike Lee's work, but he expected better from such an acclaimed filmmaker.
“This is a perfect example of somebody not from Chicago who comes to Chicago and exploits the violence and the situation without leaving anything sustainable in its place," he says.
Other fellow Chicago rappers went on Twitter to express their issues with Lee's trailer as well. See their reactions below.
What do you think of Spike Lee's Chi-Raq trailer? Tell us in the comments below.