I got a call from a white person who was so enthusiastic about his hip-hop documentary that it sounded like he was having multiple and intense orgasms. He insisted that I meet him and his associate and that I give him some press. I did. But that was nearly two years ago. Still no documentary. Luckily, I suspected something was up and wrote about it.
The Devil Wears Polo
With rosy cheeks, a penchant for smart, button-up Polo shirts and money coming out of his Topsiders, the fresh-faced, young, former-Johnson & Johnson salesman William Quinn isn’t your typical hip-hop fan. To give you an idea, he makes presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee look a bit like Wesley Snipes.
But Quinn—who informed me last week that his Davis-based production company, UEP Films, is working on a feature-length documentary about underground hip-hop—is excited. Really excited. He recently hired Lee Davis (Hoop Reality, 3 AM) to direct the doc (“We wanted an African-American perspective”) and is looking for some local press to get a little buzz going. Well, “Little Buzz” is practically my Indian name, so count me in. In like Quinn, as it were.
So Quinn showed up Saturday at the local hip-hop Mecca known as Starbucks at the University Mall in Davis with a friend/business partner, whose name, well, actually I forget his name, but he kind of looked like a Trent. Or, no, maybe a “Party” Steve. Well, they got right down to business, pitching their movie at ultra light speed. And aside from the uncanny way they finished each other’s sentences (like The Brady Bunch kids trying to get out of a jam), there was something ultimately disturbing about the duo that I couldn’t quite pinpoint. Maybe it was their constant name-dropping; or perhaps simply that “escaping the corporate world … to chase dreams” is only something white people do in the movies. But whatever it was, it set off some sort of alarm in the Mexican half of my brain. It put me on edge; I could almost hear mi abuelita whispering from heaven: “One minute, you’re gazing into those beautiful blue eyes, Mijo, and the next thing you know, you’re jobless on a reservation trying to catch a buzz off a can of hairspray.”
However, to their credit, Quinn and Party Steve were extremely well-versed in hip-hop trivia. For example, they talked about the Solesides crew (now Quannum), Tupac’s role in Digital Underground, Del, Zion I, etc. And they even managed to catch me off guard with facts about 1300s West African griots: “It’s like the bard system in Europe, but they had to freestyle,” said Quinn.
Rapping bards? Fuck yeah. But what about my favorite emcee, Immortal Technique? Were they hip to that shit?
“Felipe?” Quinn said, with an I-just-won-a-Daily-Double-on-Teen-Jeopardy grin. “Felipe’s my boy!”
Well, if there’s one thing I learned from Roots (other than you shouldn’t call black people “boy”) it’s that white people aren’t so bad. And whichever way you cut it, these gleaming Caucasians really knew their shit about hip-hop (“We read between us about 20,000 pages”). Their tentatively titled doc, Well Versed, will probably end up a smashing success of a film. But until that day, fellows, me and my granny have our eyes on you.