Saturday, July 24, 2010

Popa Wu: A 5% Story (NGE Edition) Review

Popa Wu building at classic GZA concert at New York's Knitting Factory in 2007 (Earth Izayaa Allat)

Beyond the musician, the performer and the businessmen vehicling the arts to us are the minds that inspire, direct and re-ground these expressions of art. Hip Hop is often called a culture often narrowing the way of life that produces the expressions it is categorizing. Seeing Hip Hop completely is to see and hear those great minds that are behind the artistic geniuses we admire. With Popa Wu: A 5% Story (NGE Edition), we learn of one of the fathering minds of the Wu-Tang Clan, Hip Hop music’s most powerful cult empire ever. Khalik Kuro, the burgeoning director of the best gritty Wu videos of the last decade from Hell Razah’s “Hood Love” to Darkim Be Allah & 36Zero’s “Change,” naturally offers the story of the Wu elder statesman.

Told in the freewheeling narrative will chosen by Popa Wu himself and directed in a cut/paste fashion of excellent imagery and shot selection we learn of our subject by his naturally engrossing character simply living. Named the NGE Edition, there certainly is a focus on Popa Wu's reality as Freedum Allah of the Nation of God and Earth. As expected of Khalik, he details the roots of Freedum Allah's NGE upbringing well with narrative commentary and audio interview excerpts. With little footage for this backstory, Khalik still ably engages visually with clarifying transcription and excellent photographs of the old times. The greatest attribute to a director like Kuro is that, like the raw street Hip Hop video, he often lets the subject tell their own story. While this method has its faults in probing questions left out, Popa Wu giving a chronology of his Medina/Brooklyn blocks he grew up on and the East New York subway station they ciphered in adds clarity with intrigue about him and the entire Wu-Tang Clan.

The successful portrait of any Hip Hop work is that insightful presentation of realness. As one of the many Gods of the Nation of God and Earth, I personally attest to the ideal representation of Freedum. Building with him years ago with Dasun Allah in a project apartment deep in Mecca/Harlem, his understanding captured on the Cuban Linx and Ironman albums are really his own. They are so profound for the world because it is consistently revelatory to him. When we learn to build an understanding it is by living the knowledge we learn. That wisdom draws out a true revelation of purpose within. It is special to oneself and is shared sincerely. This sincerity is the culture's power and ultimate path to equality shared. On the aforementioned albums to Lord Jamar's 5% LP and the A-Alikes I Eat You Eat album, Popa Wu is dynamically sharing what Freedum has truly seen and lived. As an elder, Khalik captures an incredible build that RZA offers to Popa Wu that starts as a sincere conversation on the plight of the Original peoples of the world and the natural weakness of the Caucasian man that becomes a powerful build on the weakness leading into wickedness. It is the question, "What is a Real Devil?" deeply explored.

While the only pitfall of the dynamic individual is that there are mysterious aspects to his legacy left untold when they are left to tell it. The latter half of the film Khalik shows how chronicling Popa Wu was no easy adventure revealing the rarity of what we have and what we also may be missing. Taught orally and personally, the teachings of the NGE and its brothers and sisters, are deliberately hard to capture through the broad based and insensitive media. Here, Khalik captures the sincerest elder, among the youth, bombing them up when they stumble foolishly and listening intently when they show and prove their best parts. It is no exaggeration to say that Popa Wu's life explored lends insight the Wu-Tang Clan, Hip Hop music and culture, the streets of Brooklyn to Harlem and the deepest thoughts of the Nation of God and Earth. Thus, the Popa Wu Documentary is a vital and necessary film.

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