Before reading, watch “Welcome to Chiraq, Ep. 1,” the first of a seven-part series on the Chicago drill scene, violence and culture from Vice’s Noisey endeavor:
Now that you’ve seen it, let’s discuss.
First, Chiraq is a mashup reference to both Chicago and Iraq. (I’m not sure if it’s appropriate to connect violence in the Chi with the war in Iraq, but pop culture has made it a popular thing to say. Plus, if your income is based on the perception of Chicago being seen as sinister, Chiraq works as a moniker.)
Second, the documentary is actually very well done and well produced. The researchers did a solid job of sourcing interviews, and even got invited into the homes of some of the main players here. The police working the Englewood beat chime in as well.
Third, depending upon your viewpoint, it’s very popular or very unpopular to continue to harp on Chicago’s (dropping) murder rate. I’ve only seen episode one, but thus far, the documentary does not discuss the drop in murders. Will it? Hmm.
Fourth, for more background, check out my story on Chicago’s new hip hop scene here.
Fifth, did anyone else find it troubling that the producer used subtitles to explain what some of the guys were saying? As if the young men profiled didn’t speak English? I found that faintly… inappropriate. Perhaps the could-be-perceived-as-hating-on-southern-US-accents move will be fixed in future episodes. Otherwise, I”ll need subtitles to be added to every episode of “Duck Dynasty.” (Before you rip me a new one about Southern accents being found in Chicago, it’s no secret that a vast majority of Black Chicago has roots in Mississippi and Arkansas, hence the totally understandable Southern twang.)
All documentaries are shot from a well-defined point of view. Episode one is pretty tightly focused on depicting the “Drill Scene” as one solely focused on music about murder or killing. Like everything about Chicago, that particular definition of drill could be debated. However, barring that, it’s interesting to see Young Chop in his home studio, and to see and hear him describe the origins of drill music. (Chop produced Keef’s 2012 hit “I Don’t Like.”) Host Thomas Morton does a solid job of remaining non-judgmental about the Chi and says his lines completely straight. I also like that he said that gangs pretty much were invented in Chicago but he also smartly described other facets of the city, including our history of segregation, sports teams and pizza. Bravo to him for coming out to do his interviews in what looks to be – on camera, anyway – quite chilly weather.
Noisey.vice.com, a premium content provider for YouTube, is owned by Vice Media and is the company’s music channel. The site does a good job of filtering content for music aficionados. It also somehow manages to cover a plethora of global music news with a granularity that is admirable. I’ll be checking for the next seven parts of the Chiraq documentary.
Until then, what else jumped out at you about this documentary?
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— Adrienne Samuels Gibbs