Body and Soul
Hip Hop artist and activist Jasiri X presents an original new score for the newly restored cinematic classic, Body and Soul. The 1925 silent film is directed by Oscar Micheaux and stars the great Paul Robeson. Original lyrical content is written by Jasiri X. Music production created by 1Hood Media artists Idasa Tariq and LiveFromTheCity. This intergenerational performance piece seamlessly connects Black America’s past to present, while creatively focusing on social justice issues of the day that were as relevant in 1925 as they are today.
History of Piece
In the silent era, black actors were hardly allowed on screen, even as maids or oafish comic relief. Hollywood would have loved a handsome, strapping presence like Paul Robeson, if only the industry hadn’t been blinded by racism. So the Rutgers football star and Columbia-educated lawyer made his film debut under the aegis of Oscar Micheaux, a go-it-alone entrepreneur who made his socially potent, artistically amateurish pictures on the super-cheap. In Body and Soul, Robeson plays two characters: the saintly Sylvester Jenkins and his venal brother, the “Reverend” Isaiah, an ex-con who wows the church ladies with his oratory, then sullies their virgin daughters and makes off with the victims’ life savings — in a Bible. It’s Isaiah who gets the screen time, which allows Robeson to radiate his unique movie appeal.
In a sensible society, the movie men out West would have seen the raw power of Robeson’s performance and signed him up. He did get a few supporting roles in Hollywood, notably in the 1936 Show Boat, singing “Old Man River” and playing opposite Hattie McDaniel. But his unapologetic charisma and machismo — call it charismo — had no place in the official American movie industry. Like Josephine Baker, the sinuous black dancer who emigrated to Paris and had several movies built around her personality, Robeson had to go to Britain to find leading roles. In these medium-budget dramas, he was always billed above the white stars; and in one of these films, 1937’s Jericho, he surely became the first movie man of color to call a white man “boy.” Back home, movie people pretended Robeson didn’t exist. That was a great loss, for him and for the strong characters he might have been able to embody. Not for the last time, we whisper: If only….
Original Soundtrack Lyrics by Jasiri X
Jasiri X is the first independent hip-hop artist to be awarded an Honorary Doctorate, which he received from Chicago Theological Seminary in 2016. This recognition grew out of the spiritual/political urgency and artistic vision he shared on songs like “Justice For Trayvon” and “Strange Fruit (Class of 2013),” which documented the unjust police killings of young Blacks in the Millennial Generation. Likewise, he has been deeply involved with the national Movement for Black Lives, working with organizations like The Gathering for Justice, Blackout for Human Rights, Justice or Else, BYP100 and Sankofa. Still, he remains rooted in the Pittsburgh based organizations he co-founded, the anti-violence group One Hood as well as the New Media Academy, which teaches African-American boys how to analyze and create media for themselves. Jasiri emerged on the national scene in 2007 with the powerful hit song “Free The Jena 6” and the groundbreaking Internet video series This Week With Jasiri X, a program that reached millions of Internet views. More recently, his critically acclaimed album Black Liberation Theology (2015) has been recognized as a soundtrack for today’s civil rights movement. He has performed his music from the Smithsonian to the Apollo Theater and has discussed his views on hip-hop, race and politics at leading institutions across the nation, including Harvard University, the University of Chicago, NYU, Stanford, among others. Beyond his work nationally, Jasiri’s focus on social change has also touched the global arena. In 2016, he was commissioned by The Open Society Foundation to travel to Columbia to create a film (War on Us with Grammy Award-winning hip-hop artist Rhymefest) that highlights the international effects of US drug policy in South America. One of the most important political voices of his generation, in 2015 he received the USA Cummings Fellowship in Music, a BMe Fellowship and a Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Artist as Activist Fellowship.
Original Production by Idasa Tariq and LiveFromtheCity. Performances by 1Hood Media artists
Idasa Tariq is a Hip Hop music artist and producer hailing from Pittsburgh, PA by way of Binghamton, NY. Since 14, Tariq has been recording and producing his own music as well as for others (Jasiri X “Just A Minstrel”, “The Babies” | Dominique Larue ‘HerStory’ EP | Real Deal “Never Stop The Fire” | Blak Rapp Madusa “Steel Waters Run Deep” EP), and made his first album debut with ‘Pissed Off Soul Man’ in 2011. Influenced by artists and producers such as Blackstar, Kanye West, Black Milk & Little Brother, Tariq continues to create soul music that is influenced by the music of yesterday, inspired by the reality of today. After relocating back to Pittsburgh in July of 2013, Tariq went on to further his career in art and music by becoming a music teaching artist, and now as the Assistant Creative Director at 1Hood Media Academy. Through the 1Hood Media Academy, Tariq saw how he could make a bigger impact through Hip Hop and education by working alongside and furthering the ideas of youth arts in Pittsburgh, following the guidance of his elder peers and instructors Jasiri X and Paradise Gray of X CLAN. Tariq is currently working on his 5th album, “Pieces of A Soul”, set to be released later this year.
Livefromthecity, is a songwriter, composer, and recording engineer. Born and raised in Wilkinsburg, PA Legion spent his younger years playing basketball with hopes of catching the attention of a college scout. When those plans did not come to fruition, he picked up his old hobby of rapping as a means of therapy. As he made more music, Legion realized that hip-hop was his passion and began to make music full-time. He says that he really got inspired to make music when one of his best friends was killed on duty with the Marine Corps after he graduated high school. “We used to go to my house and rap after school, and he was one of the best rappers I had ever met. He’s with me every time I rhyme.” Livefromthecity grieved his comrade, he began to focus even harder on his music, and reaches out via social media to another good friend of his from high school that made music as well. “I actually went to one of his video shoots, and we just linked up from there. We were in his garage recording freestyles we eventually created songs from.” Livefromtheciy currently still resides in Wilkinsburg, which he considers his home and the people his family. He has performed at many events in the city of Pittsburgh, and some events outside of his home state lines. He has released 2 EP’s (Seasons, 2014 and The Last Pick, 2015) as well as 1 full length project (Sex Sells, 2015) and currently is working on a new project (The Freak Show, TBA).