Sunday, 12 December 2010

Can Black Creativity Escape Petty Feuding?

When the American television network ABC asked Ewan McGregor if he'd ever consider working with director Danny Boyle on another movie again the actor was quick to respond by saying: "I don't think so. Danny and I don't speak, we haven't spoken for years. There was a falling out of sorts over The Beach and that was quite a messy and hurtful time." McGregor told a journalist in a 2005 interview that, "Boyle and his people didn't treat me very well. It wasn't just about The Beach — it was that they were dishonest with me about it." McGregor's emotional wounds are understandable as the short lived but highly successful creative collaboration between the actor and filmmaker yielded cult movies like Shallow Grave and A Life Less Ordinary: the crowning middle achievement being Trainspotting.

With such noxious resentment spewing from McGregor's camp it seems baffling that Danny Boyle told Cinematical's Todd Gilchrist last Friday that the sequel to Trainspotting is now steadily taking shape. Boyle said: "The book Porno (Irvine Welsh's literary sequel to Trainspotting) is not a great book in the way that the original novel is genuinely a masterpiece. But we have been doing some work on it, and it's got potential. And when the moment's right, I think we will approach it." Boyle went on to say: "It will happen, I think ― I mean, we'll approach [the original cast] all again about it, but it will depend on what place they're all at."

A public falling out between two heavyweight figures like McGregor and Boyle may pique the interests of nerdy film aficionados, but film industry rifts aren't a patch on music industry rifts; and no one engages in quarrels the way black people in music do. Black people take things to heart in a way that disputes like the one between McGregor and Boyle can only be settled through punishing bloodshed. Take for example the Biggy & Tupac massacre of 1996 (around the same period Trainspotting was smashing it up in cinemas) when frivolous public spats between two powerhouse African American rappers, The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur, culminated in the brutal execution of both artists. Neither Biggy nor Tupac were rivals, in fact, they respected each others' talents but due to rampant misunderstandings and egregious media sensationalising, things were pushed so far over the edge that a gangland bloodbath was the only adequate means of settlement. Conspirators insist, Nick Broomfield among them, that the antagonism between Biggy & Tupac was orchestrated by the head of Death Row Records, Suge Knight, in order to perpetuate the Eastcoast/ Westcoast mythos; and to ultimately shift more records.

In another example of black people holding sensational grudges, The Fugees have never been able to settle their disputes despite numerous attempts. Their 1996 album The Score (released same year as Trainspotting) sold 18 million units worldwide, eventually becoming a multi-platinum and Grammy-winning album. In 2007, MTV ranked them the 9th greatest hip-hop group of all time, thus highlighting that the Fugees mere two album output was enough to cement a profound impact on music history. The Fugees have tried but failed to get their shit together, having attempted to record a follow up album to The Score and even going on a European tour together, but nearly all of these creative get-togethers has ended acrimoniously. In a 2007 interview, Fugees band member Pras Michel set the record straight, saying: "Before I work with Lauryn Hill (lead singer of Fugees) again, you will have a better chance of seeing Osama Bin Laden and [George W.] Bush in Starbucks having a latte, discussing foreign policies, before there will be a Fugees reunion."

The rancour of old school hip-hop luminaries rears its ugly head again with the decades old disputes of members from A Tribe Called Quest. Though the group reformed in 2006 after disbanding in the late-90s, there has never been a believable sense of functioning modus-vivendi in their working practices. Michael Rapaport (yes, that Michael Rapaport from Mighty Aphrodite) has directed a new documentary on the band called Beats, Rhythms & Life, and leaked the trailer online this month much to the chagrin of band member Q-Tip who has now spoken out against the film on Twitter. Q-Tip's anger is understandable as the trailer shows Tip and Phife Dawg getting into a heated argument in front of the cameras; also showing a presumably joking alternate title for the film: 'Beats, Rhymes & Fights'. Q-Tip stated last week: "I am not in support of the documentary," adding, "The filmmaker should respect the band to the point of honouring the few requests that's made abt [sic] the piece. The filmmaker shld [sic] respect the band enough to honour our request regarding the film."

Just when you'd be forgiven for thinking all this ethnically black vexation was old hat, Leah Greenblatt reported in November's Entertainment Weekly about the progressively worsening relationship between 20th Century hip-hop ho: Lil' Kim vs. 21st Century hip-hop ho: Nicki Minaj. The two women have gone toe-to-toe about inane disputes concerning who is copying whom and some other bollocks most of us couldn't care about. But Nicki Minaj did make a seemingly legitimate point by saying: "When you see Gaga, you see Madonna — but Madonna never hated on Gaga." Minaj continued: "Why in the black community we got to hate on each other instead of saying, 'Thank you for showing me love, thank you for keeping my name alive?'"

In effect, Nicki Minaj is saying that such irrational and public disputes are endemic to black communities. It signals that perhaps black people are incapable of settling their arguments in a dignified and judicious manner. Yet I feel this is far from a simple black and white argument. No one looks at the hate filled dialogue between Morrissey and Johnny Marr as proof of white working-class Northerners not being able to get their shit together. The exact same thing can be said about both the Stone Roses and Oasis. No one is calling Keith Richards a typical English traitor for berating Mick Jagger as "unbearable" in his newly published autobiography Life; and no one ever says that the severe falling out between siblings Ray and Dave Davies of The Kinks reveals just how little white people value sacred family bonds. Christ, if any band can be deemed as vexatious and pernicious then it'd either be Van Halen or Guns N' Roses, but no one will ever say that either band is an exemplification of how the white creative community hates on each other. It's not that people of a specific race are belligerent as much as it proves that creative partnerships often bring out the worst in people of all colours. Collaborative creativity can, and often does, breed contempt.

So, despite trying to highlight how life is too short for petty creative feuding ― black or white ― Ewan McGregor is still telling The Scotsman newspaper that, "[Danny Boyle et al] can go ahead [with Trainspotting 2] if they want, but it will be without me on board."

Seriously, sometimes you just have to try and get along and make the best of things for the greater good: especially before anyone gets shot.


  1. Nicki minaj and Li'l kim kind of freak me out. But ewan mcgregor is hot.

  2. Hmmm. Not sure that was the kind of response I wanted this post to elicit.

  3. Isn't it generalising (and a bit racist) to pick on a few isolated feuds between black musicians and make the insinuation that they're all at it? ("no one engages in quarrels the way black people in music do")

    PS I agree with Fickle - L'il Kim freaks me out too.

  4. It can be perceived as racist for you to say that Lil’ Kim freaks you because she’s a black woman, therefore suggesting you find the empowering sexualisation of a black woman a disorientating actuality in a way you wouldn’t if it was a white woman. You are effectively stating that a black woman cannot be sexy.

    There are no facts: only interpretations – the above statement is merely an informed/ misinformed interpretation of your comment. Don’t be such a thick bastard next time and think twice before you accuse someone of a strong allegation such as racism. Have some balls and leave your fucking name when commenting on here again.

  5. Fair comment. My name? Well, you, yourself hide behind the anonymity of a psuedonym (unless Movies on My Mind is your real name??)

    So, you first in 'having some balls' as you so eloquently put it!

    PS You haven't blogged for a while. Any chance of a look back on the old year/ look forward to the new?

  6. For the purposes of this blog I will continue to call myself Movies on my Mind, but you can call me Dad.

    Don’t you worry about my balls as they remain securely in my pants, unlike others who have them dangling from their foreheads.

    No, I am not some routine blogger who gets kicks out of cataloguing best movies/ music of the last year. This isn’t that kind of blog and if you really want that type of stuff then see:,29569,2035319,00.html.

    I saw most of last year’s releases and have been lucky enough to have seen the 2010 awards movies that are still to be released in British cinemas. Suffice to say it was a shit year for cinema and the albums weren’t much better either. Therefore I can’t be fucked doing a retrospective on 2010, nor a report looking forward to 2011 which is riddled with crap Hollywood 3D sequels and an overhyped Lady GaGa album that will be as shit as her last; though we are promised a new Radiohead album that may be a minor plus to what looks like a bland 12 months to come.

    Regular posts will begin soon after I return to the UK from my holidays in Kuala Lumpur.