Chicago rapper Rhymefest — a k a Cheland Smith — does not mince words when it comes to Spike Lee’s upcoming film “Chi-Raq.” He took to Twitter on Wednesday with this message: “Spike Lee exploited poor people.”
Rhymefest had plenty to say about the trailer for the controversial film opening Dec. 4, as well as the celebrated filmmaker, during an interview late Wednesday afternoon.
SpikeLee exploited poor people https://t.co/pI2XhxR45E
— Rhymefest (@RHYMEFEST) November 4, 2015
“I’d say [Spike Lee], you owe Chicago an apology. And you owe Chicago your presence to repair the damage. 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.”
The singer said his tweet was sparked by his reaction to the film’s trailer, released earlier this week, and to a script of the movie he received from a Chicago actor, whom he would not identify, who was asked to be in the film and then booted in favor of an out-of-towner. Whether the script was the final shooting version, Rhymefest did not know, but said the trailer supported pretty much what he read in the script he received.
“I saw the trailer. It looks just like the script I read, and it verified everything I thought. I was more shocked when I saw the trailer than when I was reading the script. 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.”
The film, whose star-studded cast includes Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Hudson, Angela Bassett and Wesley Snipes, among others, is directed by Lee and co-written by Lee and Kevin Willmott. The satire puts a contemporary spin 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 trailer depicts a group of African-American women joining forces to do just that in Chicago’s toughest and most crime-ridden neighborhoods as a means of ending the violence.
“THAT’S how we want to depict our community? THAT’S the answer?” Rhymefest said.
Rhymefest said the idea of the violence in Chicago being compared to a war — hence the film’s title — angers him perhaps most of all.
“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. Wars are fought for a reason generally. People fight over land, over money. . . . That’s not what’s happening on Chicago’s South Side . . . . 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. We were used. We were exploited. This story is not specific to Chicago.”
Read more at Chicago Suntimes