Monday, December 10, 2007

Six Degrees Of Music Separation (Or If You Prefer, Kevin Bacon): American Gangster And Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai

Download: Bobby Womack - "Across 110th Street" (from American Gangster Original Soundtrack; Original available on Across 110th Street Soundtrack)
Download: Tekitha - "Walking Through The Darkness"* (from Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai Soundtrack)

Over the weekend, I had myself an unintended Josh Brolin mini film-festival, as I saw both No Country For Old Men and American Gangster, both of which are films where he plays prominent characters (more so the former rather than the latter). As far as enjoying the films, No Country was the better movie all around, seeing as the gritty neo-noir style is an area where the Coen Brothers frequently shine (see also Blood Simple and Fargo). On the other hand, American Gangster screwed the pooch by heavily emphasizing obvious dichotomies (a rag-tag, down-on-his-luck, but honest cop with problems at home played by Russell Crowe? Why, I would have never dreamed of such things! And Denzel Washington as a borderline-psychopathic organized criminal who is the cause of, and solution to, all of the problems of an urban African-American community torn apart by poverty and drugs? What are the odds?) and not focusing on the truly interesting parts of the story; that is, SPOILER ALERT, at the very end, when Messrs. Washington and Crowe work together to expose the corrupt cops who took payoffs from Washington's crime empire.

As obviously written as the characters the aforementioned gentlemen play are, both actors do great jobs portraying them. By the time both characters meet and interact, they clearly become the most interesting, and engaging, part of what essentially is a 2 1/2 hour amalgamation of 70s exploitation (Christ, one of the characters looks exactly like Ron O'Neal from Superfly) and Scarface. American Gangster would have been a better movie if it framed the action, through flashbacks and the like, around those interactions, as opposed to the wanna-be Scarface boobies-drugs-guns approach it instead takes.

Now, for the music part, which is what is most relevant to this blog. To its credit, American Gangster features the nicely ironic casting of two hip-hop stars: there's Common, a rapper widely regarded as being socially responsible, who's cast as a member of Washington's drug empire; and The RZA, architect of the Wu-Tang Clan, a nine-member rap posse who, at one time, employed someone who changed his name from Old Dirty Bastard to Big Baby Jesus. RZA helps Russell Crowe, along with 7 other people or so, bring down Washington and his drug-dealing, organized crime co-horts. Now say it with me, people: Russell Crowe, The RZA, and an assorted number of well-regarded character actors ain't nuthin' to fuck wit'! Russell Crowe, The RZA, and an assorted number of well-regarded character actors ain't nuthin' to fuck wit'!

So, finally, here's where the six degrees of separation come in. RZA does a numerous amount of movie soundtracks, including Kill Bill and, most relevant to this post, Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai. In one song on Ghost Dog's, soul-singer Tekitha's "Walking Through The Darkness", samples the bassline and intro melody of 70s soul-star Bobby Womack's "Across 110th Street", though I did not realize this until I heard that familar walking bassline (pun proudly intended) and thought, "Oh shit, son, that was used in that song from Ghost Dog".

After some research, I stumbled upon "Across 110th Street" and downloaded it. Both "Across 110th Street" and "Walking Through The Darkness" are at the top of this post, for your listening pleasure. Furthermore, if you can think of any more instances of six degrees of music separation, post them in the comments section.

And, for the record, The RZA is two degrees from Kevin Bacon. The RZA was in Scary Movie 3 with Queen Latifah, who was in Beauty Shop with Kevin Bacon.

(Jonathan Graef)

*by the end of the day, I'll post an MP3 from Jay-Z's album American Gangster, which was inspired by the filmn. I couldn't find one before I had to voy a mi trabajo.

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