Starting from Scratch

The Upsetter screens at the Coolidge
By CHRIS FARAONE  |  November 25, 2008


If the hip-hop generation ever calls for martial law, the revolution will be sponsored by Scion. The rectangularly adventurous car company is our closest corporate ally, bankrolling a large segment of the low-slung-pants community, and providing the rest of us with sweet events that rarely dent the pocket.

For the second installment of Scion's Independent Film Series at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, I arrived 15 minutes ahead of time, early enough to take advantage of the free beer and popcorn. Movies are always better with complimentary intoxicants, and what with the brew, the cozy atmosphere, and the Question-2-friendly alley way, the Coolidge proved an especially hedonistic winter wonderland.

In from New York, DJ JayCeeOh entertained while heads filed in. Reaching past his usual dance and hip-hop flavor, the Boston-bred turntable champ crossed the roots spectrum from Eek-A-Mouse to Bob Marley while moistening folks for a full-frontal reggae experience.

I'd leave it to our film critics to review the Lee "Scratch" Perry documentary The Upsetter, but it might be forever before producers Adam Bhala Lough and Ethan Higbee land distribution. Despite their heroic telling of the most important tale in contemporary black music, some major-label vultures are shortsightedly reluctant to allow use of certain Perry jams.

Scratch discovered his musicality as a hard laborer. While he was working construction in Negril, vibrations from rocks and stones inspired what would later become reggae, which would evolve into dub, which would inspire Kool Herc to create hip-hop after moving from Jamaica to the Bronx. Very long story short: Perry works his way from sweeping floors in Kingston's top studios to paramount creative status. Side plot: he produces the best tracks of Bob Marley's career, then gets dissed on "Trenchtown Rock" for bootlegging Wailers songs in Europe.

The Upsetter has driving psychedelic elements, and for good reason. In most of the film Perry is completely whacked, which I suppose you must be to invent reggae. But though it was a bit sad to watch him descend into madness, the Coolidge crowd heartily laughed it up when he praised "music and pussy," unfolded nonsensical Rastafarian rationalizations, and began calling himself Pipecock Jackson. Must have been the free beer.

Related: Coolidge compliments Quays, Totally clips of the heart, Review: Waiting For Armageddon, More more >
  Topics: Live Reviews , Entertainment, Hip-Hop and Rap, Music,  More more >
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