Documentary Synopsis

“Finally Sayin’ What I Really Mean…”

“The Music is Powerful…” Saul Williams

Black music has always been more than just entertainment. Singers, rappers, poets – they tell OUR stories, they soothe or intensify our pain by the beat of the drum or the hum of the melody. The music shapes and molds our sensibilities. For me, as for many of us, my memories are defined in terms of musical history – as a child cutting my teeth to the soulful sounds of James Brown, Mahalia filling Sundays with spirit, bumping and grinding to Marvin under the blue lights in the basement, and so on… 

Indeed, the music was entertainment, but it was more than that, it was the soundtrack to my life. It defined who I was at that moment, captured the essence of what I felt. When Public Enemy rapped, “Fight the Power” I was an angry teenager rebelling against the establishment, when NWA screamed “F*&% the Police” there I was, throwing up the middle finger. I cried purple tears with Prince, fell in love to Jodeci and just a few chords can bring all of that emotion, all of those memories, right back to now.

So, if music touches peoples’ lives and defines their realities, what about Black music today? 

Record numbers of African-American children/teenagers are either dying or being locked up. Instead of growing old, they are having babies young. There is an argument that faults entertainment, more specifically, rap music. Young people are both desensitized and hyper-sexualized at the same time – babies having babies, being sexually used and abused, catching and spreading disease, is it because of the sex in the music? Has T-Pain’s “Chopped & Skrewed” or Jazmine Sullivan’s “Bust Your Windows” become this generation’s defining reality?

“We got trapped by an image, we can get free with an image…” Cody Chestnutt

I hear that rap is dead, that’s what Nas says. But every time I turn on an urban radio station I hear the same seven rap songs, talking about the same six things – sex, drugs, bangin, money, ho’s, and clothes. And every other month, it’s a brand new artist talking about the same old thing. Is this the new soundtrack to our children’s lives? Do artists sing and rap about sex, money, drugs and death because it’s all that they see and experience? Or is that all they experience because that’s what they emulate since  artists say it’s cool? Are the record labels the driving force since sex, drugs and violence are the easiest sell? Or, is the music just a scapegoat? And where has all the good music gone?

I had a lot of questions, so I went right to the source. David Banner. Then Chamillionaire, Common, Saul Williams, Lalah Hathaway and so many others. I spent two years on a journey following Hip Hop, Soul and R&B Artists into the studio, the radio stations, their homes, hotels, on and off stage to to talk about this phenomenon. I wanted to get their take on the creativity (or lack thereof) in today’s music. I wanted to understand their definition of good music, their definition of their own music and what it means to them and the world. I tracked both signed and independent artists to get their take on the music industry and the control they have over the music and images they put out into the world. 

And God said, “Let there be…” 

That’s how it all began, with a word. The word carried our history throughout time, across culture, from place to place. Spoken word, written word, chanted word, words combined with music in the form of song, they all galvanize us in heart, spirit and intellect. It is that word which guides the poet and similarly, this documentary. The poet must be included because the songwriters, the rappers – they too, are the poets. More than simple wordsmiths, the poets serve as the ‘mouth’ of the human ‘being’. They give voice to our innermost desires, fears, lusts, joys, disappointments, loves – or, more simply put, our lives.

A 75min., in-depth musical discussion intertwined with interviews, performances, pictures, “Finally Sayin’ What I Really Mean…” is not a story with definitive answers about the state of music today and it will not define what good music is for you. However, through the artists’ own voices, it questions and challenges hip hop, soul music and poetry as an influential cultural voice.

Finally Sayin’ What I Really Mean…

A RedHeadDread Production in association with Elements Production Group

Produced/Directed/Edited by: Monique Woods (moniquewoods@gmail.com)

Writing Credits: Monique Woods

Photography: Shannon McCollum (shannonmccphoto@yahoo.com)

Technical Consultant: Lamont Liquid Burrell

Audio Mastering: Nes @ Fraternal Twinz Productions

Cast:

Abiodun Oyewole – Universal

Alice Lovelace poet/activist

Amir Suliaman poet

Anthony David – Brash Music

Bun B – Rap-A-Lot Records

Chamillionaire – Universal

Cody Chestnutt – independent

Common – GOOD Music/Sony BMG

David Banner – SRC/Universal

Ed Garnes writer/journalist

Eric Roberson – Blue Erro Soul

Homer O’dell – Caged Bird Records

jessica care moore poet/independent

Jill Scott – Hidden Beach Records

Jodine Dorce tv/video host

John Goode poet

Joi – Independent

KRS-One

Lalah Hathaway – Mesa Bluemoon/Pyramid

Lina – Hidden Beach Records

Malik Kilam radio host

Martin Luther – Rebel Soul Music

Omar – Real Music

Richard Dunn – Brash Music

Saul Williams – Fader Music

Slick & Rose – Soul Hippie Music Group

Solomon Sonaiya MC/Promoter

Sonny Emory – drummer

Sticman – Sony Urban/Columbia

Stokley Williams – Caged Bird Records

T.I.P – Atlantic

Van Hunt – Capitol Records

Zap Mama – V2

Poetry Performances:

A Walk Towards the Sun – performed by Abiodune Oyewole

written by: Willie Kgositsile

Niggas Are Untogether People – performed by Abiodun Oyewole

written by: Gylan Kain

Telegram to Hip Hop – written & performed by Saul Williams

Envy – written & performed by Jill Scott

Mastectomy – written & performed by John Goode

I Believe – written & performed by Alice Lovelace

Song Performances:

Chasing Music Dreams – written & performed by Martin Luther

Couldn’t Hear Me Over the Music – written & performed by Eric Roberson

Cold Turkey – written & performed by Anthony David

Do It – written & performed by T.I.P.

So Famous – written & performed by Joi

This is Not A Love Song – written & performed by Omar

Locations:

Apache Café

Atlanta Civic Center

Apex Museum

Auburn Avenue Research library

Earthlink Live

Kazu – Nashville, TN

Patchwerk Recording Studios

Royal Peacock Lounge

Shrine of the Black Madonna

Stankonia

Variety Playhouse

Vinyl

WRFG