A study that explores the use of sampling in the cycle of hood films between the years of 1989 and

1995, highlighted by a detailed analysis of the use of audio sampling in Do the Right Thing (Lee, 1989) and the use of visual sampling in a section of Tales from the Hood (1995) called “Hardcore Convict”. Following such analysis, would it be fair to say that the use of sampling in these films reinforces opposition towards dominant ideology and mainstream representations of AfricanAmerican culture?

Russell Cook

Independent study submitted as part requirement for the B.A (Hons) degree in Film Studies and Media and Cultural Studies at the University of Worcester.

(May 2010)


The ultimate purpose of my Independent Study is to try and understand the effects of sampled music and sampled images upon a film text, and in turn to discern how these effects impact upon audience interpretation of onscreen events. In doing so, I hope to gain an insight into the importance of sampled music to contemporary African-American musicians and composers, and the importance of sampled images, depicting key moments in African-American history, to the understanding of African-American culture as a whole. As a result, I hope to make sense of the repeated use of sampling seen in the cycle of hood films produced between the years of 1989 and 1995, allowing me to explore the prospect of these films being a response to dominant ideology and mainstream representations of AfricanAmerican culture. To conduct this study I will textually analyse two films: Do the Right Thing (Lee, 1989), and the fourth section of Rusty Cundieff’s Tales from the Hood (1995) called “Hardcore Convict”. Such a process of analysis should highlight directorial attempts at conveying meaning, both in an explicit or implicit fashion. To analyse these moments effectively I will need to conduct a semiotic style of analysis of any sampled material applied to them, enabling me to understand these key moments in a new manner. As a result of this style of analysis I hope to tread relatively new ground with regards to understanding Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing and Rusty Cundieff’s Tales from the Hood. Moreover, I hope to establish a deeper understanding of the responses made by African-American directors during the 1980’s and 1990’s, to the dominant ideological values and mainstream representations of black American people and their culture. 2

Table of Contents:


Acknowledgements Independent Study Bibliography



I would like to express my gratitude for the help I received from Dr. Mikel Koven, Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of Worcester. Mikel has guided me through my independent study and has helped me find direction when it was most important to do so. I would like to thank Mikel for the assistance he gave me during the individual tutorials and for being available when guidance was most required. I would also like to thank Damian Wilkes, Lecturer in Urban and Electronic Music Production at Kidderminster College. Via email correspondence, Damian provided me with advice concerning key texts and documentary footage in regards to hip-hop culture and sampling. This proved very helpful, and enabled me to gain an understanding of the importance of sampling to many contemporary African-American musicians, providing me with grounds to begin my research.


Independent Study

A fundamental way of studying film is to place it within its social and historical context. In doing so, one can view film as either a means of representing or dissecting societies’ values and beliefs. In this sense, film and all of its elements can be seen to embody political policy, social pressures, family values, and so on. Academics have argued and explored the idea that mainstream production companies exploit film in this manner by using it as a tool for the reassertion of dominant ideology. Alternately, independent filmmakers or those mainstream filmmakers who understand how to manipulate the filmmaking process, subvert dominant ideology by disputing hegemony, within a particular period. Numerous aspects of the filmmaking process, such as the casting, the choice of location, the themes, the representation of those themes by the films text, the choice of music used, and the manner in which it is applied, all contribute to the portrayal of meaning desired by a filmmaker. Every element of film plays an important role in the types of messages communicated to an audience; Gibbs and Pye note that ‘style constitutes the medium of expression, giving access to the story and simultaneously shaping in a variety of complex ways the film’s relationship to its material, its audience and its traditions’ (2005, 10). For each specific type of film certain aspects of style may prove more effective than others; for example in Noir there is an emphasis placed on the importance of lighting and camera angle to help convey a feeling of confinement and repression. In Horror movies, one could argue that the most important element practiced is the arrangement of mise-en-scene to create an unsettling diegetic world within which the plot can unfold. However, where the


hood or ghetto film is concerned, it is arguably the utilisation of extra-filmic material such as the use of popular songs, or archive footage and photos of relevant historic events. The sampling of sounds and images applied to a film text enables a filmmaker to enhance the meaning conveyed by their work, whether this is through the application of sampled music in post-production, or the inclusion of authentic images depicting events that happened in reality. As a result, any meaning inferred by the audience is going to be manipulated by the presence of sampled artefacts. Sexton highlighted this idea when he wrote that, ‘musical meaning emerges from its relationships with other media’ (Cook, 1998 cited in Sexton, 2007, 2). This illustrates how meaning can be enhanced by applying one form of media to another, for example by applying a sampled piece of music to a particular visual an audience will arguably interpret what they see in relationship to what they also hear. By looking at the style of a particular cycle of films produced within a particular period, combined with an analysis of the samples applied to them, enough evidence becomes available to ascertain an understanding of any potential meaning that may reflect societal, political, or cultural concerns of that period. Therefore, by conducting a study into the use of sampling in the cycle of hood films produced between the years of 1989 and 1995 it will be possible to gain insight into the values and attitudes of that period, highlighted by mainstream depictions of African-American culture. The hood films, produced predominantly by AfricanAmerican male directors, have been seen by academics, like S. Craig Watkins for example, as an antithetical response to the dominant ideology of that time. By baring this in mind sampling can be seen as a part of this antithetical response due to much of its subject matter. With regards to musical sampling Schloss points out that ‘sampling, rather than being the result of musical deprivation is an aesthetic


choice consistent with the history and values of the hip-hop community’ (2004, 21). This highlights how audio sampling holds particular relevance to the hood film, as it is a fundamental component of the hip-hop community; at this time in history, hip-hop was a style of music dominated by African-American musicians and artists. Therefore, by applying it to film, the history and values it represents can work to oppose dominant ideology. Films directed by Spike Lee, Mario Van Peebles, the Hughes Brothers, and John Singleton are good examples of the attempts made by African-American directors to deal with subject matter specifically relevant to the lived experiences of African-Americans, through their focus primarily on the hood and the culture of it. These films portray contemporary black issues from a black perspective to a wide and multiracial audience. Prior to this film movement such a feat had not been previously achieved. By combining these filmic narratives with sampling that contains references to African-American culture and its history, the filmmakers establish a response to the hegemonic representations of black people and black community. They provide audiences with an alternative view of post Civil-Rights America, and an alternative view of the effects of postindustrialisation upon the African-American community. This style of filmmaking opposes the representation of African-American people provided by mainstream film, and due to the success of directors like Spike Lee and his ability to weave a ‘complex image of the inescapable social changes that occur in an increasingly diverse America (Reid, 1997, 11), films directed by African-Americans, dealing with black subject matter, help to display the opportunity of expression provided by the new found access, post-civil rights, to popular culture for African-American people. This enables an opposition to the whiteness imposed upon mainstream depictions of their culture, family life, and values. Therefore, the cycle of hood


films between 1989 and 1995 illustrate the determination of African-American directors to convey the truth, and their emphasis on the application of sampling to film helps to validate the authenticity of their portrayal of the truth to the audience. Ultimately then, the key focus of this piece is upon how this so called cycle of hood films utilises sampling to achieve an antithetical response to the dominant ideology and politics of the late 1980’s and early to mid 1990’s. However, there must also be an exploration of the effects of sampling upon a film, and a detailed breakdown of why each sample has such an effect upon any meaning inferred from a text. By focusing on Do the Right Thing (Lee, 1989), we should be able to achieve a clear understanding of exactly how effective sampling is in helping a film to create a response to mainstream politics and representations of African-American culture. Also, as a means of comparison, an exploration of the use of visual sampling in “Hardcore Convict”, one of the key stories in Rusty Cundieff’s Tales from the Hood (1995), will be conducted in a similar manner, with the hope of exhibiting how sampling in both audio and visual form can impact upon the meaning derived from a text. Visual sampling is becoming more and more noticeable in contemporary films created by African-American directors, and “Hardcore Convict” seems to have set some kind of standard for the use of visual sampling as a means of evoking history’s failures. First of all then, we must turn to Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing (1989), which is a film that has already established itself as a field of racial discourse for academics and provides us with a clear example of the power of sampling upon a text. To understand the effect of audio sampling in Do the Right Thing (Lee, 1989) one must conduct a detailed analysis of the music used by the film. This can be done by deconstructing a song into its verses and choruses, and by separating the original


pieces of music from the sampled pieces used within it. By breaking a piece of music down in this way all of the samples used should be highlighted effectively, allowing one to research the meaning of each in some detail. Such a study will highlight the socio-historical background of the sampled music and should enable us to gain new insight into its original meaning. In turn, we will be able to derive new meaning from the samples upon re-listening to them within the context of a new song. Therefore, when a number of samples come together within the construct of a new piece of music what we should have is a collage of historical artefacts that combine to carry one specific message. With that in mind, we will be able to see how Spike Lee uses music to act as another voice within his film, and to further evoke the tension and passions felt within its narrative. Lee’s use of Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” (1989) in Do the Right Thing (DtRT) is unique and evocative: it is applied to ten individual scenes within the film; nine times as diegetic sound, and once as nondiegetic sound. Unlike much mainstream cinema, Lee uses music to awaken the viewer from a filmic sleep as opposed to using it as a tool of maintaining a degree of passivity within the audience known in film terms as the suspension of disbelief. Ferri notes that ‘traditionally, the idea of a “willing suspension of disbelief” has expressed the process whereby we consciously allow our imaginations to run free and accept as real what at first appears illogical and improbable’ (2007, 4). With this in mind, we can see how mainstream cinema utilises music for that effect. However, Lee’s use of music in DtRT is explicit and rousing; Reid notes that “Fight” ‘is used as a sonic assault – it enters unpredictably, at an unmodulated, uncharacteristically loud volume. It is intended to be obtrusive’ (1997, 52). Lee’s desire is to make sure our attention is focused upon the message the music evokes in order to manipulate our


response to on-screen events. In doing so, he implores us to ask questions about what is happening on-screen, to be active and not passive, with the hope that we will be encouraged to stand up and let our own voices be heard within society. By using the song within the diegesis of DtRT, Lee establishes another voice, one that is a milieu of African-American voices carrying a message of bringing about unity through racial equality. These are the very voices that are of particular interest to our study as they constitute the vast majority of “Fight the Power”, as the song utilises very little original material, aside from the majority of its lyrical content. Therefore, most of the music heard in the song is sampled, and more significantly, all from African-American musicians. To fully understand Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” within the context of DtRT, a deconstruction of its elements is necessary. Each relevant sample and its original context must be researched effectively, then placed back within the context of the song and evaluated again to understand its new relevance to the overall piece. Finally, an analysis of some of the key scenes that use “Fight” must be conducted, and each sample heard within those scenes must be re-evaluated within the context of the film’s narrative. With the new interpretations of each sample in mind, and a new understanding of “Fight”, it should be possible to discern any meaning intended by Lee’s use of it at particular moments within the film. “Fight the Power” incorporates eleven different samples comprised of both vocal melodies and instrumentation, so by focusing on some of the key samples heard most often within DtRT, we should be able to understand their overall effect on the film. The first notable sample heard is taken from the song “Pump me up” by Trouble Funk (1982). Trouble Funk encapsulated a sound that was known as ‘GoGo’, a sound born in Washington during the 1970’s, and is thought of by many as a


pre-cursor to rap music. “Pump me up” encompasses a funky yet, tribal aesthetic with a rap style vocal that establishes an ongoing energy and vibrancy akin to the energy and power of live funk. Vincent notes that: While the Go-Go beat is an urban funk explosion, the approach to the music had more to do with the endless rhythms of Afro-Caribbean dance styles such as reggae, calypso and salsa – all of which thrive on rhythmic energy – rather than hit records (2004, 486) This illustrates how Go-Go was an effective collection of indigenous sounds and attitudes, and in turn highlights how “Pump me up” was part of a resurgence of African-American identification in the early 1980’s as opposed to an attempt to hijack the mainstream of popular culture. Citing Nelson, Vincent adds that the GoGo beat is a ‘ritual of black celebration that fulfils its role with an African beauty that connects the links between Rio de Janeiro, Kingston, Havana, and Lagos’ (Nelson, 1993 cited in Vincent, 2004, 486). He is pointing out how Go-Go was a unifying style of music that enabled its audience to feel a relationship with their heritage and ancestry, and served as an escape from the social norms and legal rulings imposed upon African-Americans by the dominant ideology of the United States. This relationship is similar to that established by rap music, and in more specific terms hip-hop, and its overall culture. Forman notes that, ‘Hip-Hop can be seen as a series of practices with an evolved history and the ongoing potential to challenge both social norms and legal stricture: in hip-hop there are always stakes of crucial importance’ (2004, 1). Baring Forman’s comments in mind, it is important to recognise how Go-Go, like hip-hop, can be seen as a movement that enabled African-American youth to feel a relationship to the issues that were


relevant to their community and own specific ancestral history. Thus, the influence of a song like “Pump me up” cannot be underestimated. Understanding “Pump me up” with new historical and social relevance allows us to begin an evaluation of the eight-second sample of the song, used by Public Enemy. The sample appears at the very beginning of “Fight the Power”, and is looped to create a recurring and rhythmic effect that builds in intensity until the beat begins. The looping of Trouble Funk’s lyric “Pump, pump, pump, pump me up” blurs into what sounds like the word “pump” repeating itself, giving the introduction of the song a burst of energy and an anticipatory sense. The intensity conjured up by this is arguably reflective of Public Enemy’s urge to convey their message to the listener. It also reflects the intrigue of the audience upon hearing this sound: we want the song to begin and take us on its journey. In addition to the atmosphere created by hearing this sample, connotations of tribal chanting and indigenous music are conveyed to the listener. As a result, it conjures up an oppositional image to mainstream depictions of the lifestyle of an African-American citizen, offering a portrayal far more in tune with traditional African culture. Regarding such symbolic interpretation of music, Nattiez wrote that ‘musical symbolism is polysemic, because when we listen to music, the meanings it takes on, the emotions that it evokes, are multiple, varied, and confused’ (1990: 37). This exhibits how music can affect our understanding of a scene in any number of ways. The introduction of “Fight”, with its sample of “Pump” connotes images of a romanticised, family-like, tribal community, asserting the idea that the people of the ghetto need to become unified in order to have any chance of challenging negative depictions of AfricanAmerican people, and their culture.


The second sample to be heard in “Fight” is taken from the song “Hot Pants Road” by the J. B’s (1972). Steve Huey notes that, ‘the J. B’s were the legendary supporting cast of musicians behind James Brown, earning a well deserved reputation as the tightest, best-drilled ensemble in all of funk’ (Huey, 2010). With this description in mind we can see how they were a key player in the early days of 1970’s funk illustrated by the style of “Hot Pants Road” (Hot). The relentless chopping of guitar, accompanied by an effective and solid groove that was created by the bass-line and drums, along with the melody provided by the brass section and Hammond organ, created a unique sound that pushed the boundaries of African-American music. Funk, which many recognise as a product of James Brown’s experimentation with rhythm and groove ‘emphasises the down-beat – with heavy emphasis on the first beat of every measure, rather than the backbeat that typified previous styles of African-American music’ (Anisman, 1998, 142). Therefore, we can clearly understand “Hot” as being an example of the funk genre, and as a result we can see how it was clearly changing the face of music; the J. B’s were arguably one of the first acts to bring this unique rhythmic quality to audiences on a large scale. A track like “Hot” illustrates how music in the post-civil rights era helped reflect the shifting trends within society: African-American popular culture was becoming more acceptable to white America. This was illustrated clearly by the popularity of funk, and the replication of it the whole world over, for example the Average White Band who were an all white Scottish funk band. However, funk has been ‘perceived almost as blackness in its purest form’ (Danielsen, 2006, 28), and as a result, the significance of the effect of ‘black’ music upon mainstream audiences of varying race is highlighted. Certain boundaries were eroded by the societal/political developments of the 1960’s, and


the structure-less, energetic groove of “Hot” appears to reflect that erosion: no longer did songs need to be three minutes long, comprised of a normal pop structure, society was now open to new influences. Public Enemy’s sampling of the bass line and guitar riff from “Hot Pants Road gives “Fight the Power” a sense of relentlessness that evokes the power of persistence and perseverance. As a result, it reasserts the song’s message about the ongoing fight for rights and equality within contemporary American society. However, Public Enemy refers to the funk aesthetic and the values of that era with a sense of cynicism; suggesting that the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s was nothing but a smokescreen that covers up the fact that very little has changed since. By combining the funk sound of “Hot”, with its connotations of the Civil Rights movement, with their politically charged lyrics, Public Enemy establishes a dichotomy within the framework of “Fight the Power”. On the one hand, they are paying respect to a romanticised period of African-American history, and on the other, they are pointing out the false hope created during that era by dominant American ideology. Unlike the funk movement, the hip-hop movement recognised this issue and became far more explicit in its criticisms of society. Public Enemy illustrated this to full effect by choosing to tackle the issues head on and ‘deliberately strived to invest their work with distinctive styles and rhythms and colours of the ghetto’ (Fuller, 1972 cited in Danielsen 2006, 30). Those styles, rhythms, and colours are the very samples we are discussing here as they embody the emotional response to the injustice felt by many African-American people. In addition to the importance of sampling “Hot Pants Road”, one must recognise Public Enemys’ sampling of James Brown’s grunting vocal, taken from the song “Funky President” (1965). This guttural style of vocal became synonymous with


Brown, and connoted not only sexuality and passion, but power and in turn pride; all of which are fundamental elements of funk music. The repetition of Browns’ grunting vocal throughout “Fight the Power” repeatedly reminds its listener of the black aesthetic of the song due to its connotations of funk and soul music. Therefore, by adding this sample to “Fight”, Public Enemy reinforces their message of unity amongst African-American people, by reminding them of their relationship to their own history. The harmonious and powerful connotations evoked by bringing together numerous styles of African-American music, suggests that an effective message is conveyed when the African-American community is united. Therefore, by merely applying James Brown’s guttural voice to their music, along with the percussive section of their track provided by a sample of Brown’s “Funky Drummer” (1970), Public Enemy reinforce notions of black pride, further empowering their own song “Fight the Power”. In relation to this effect Demers notes that ‘Hip-hop references to the 1970’s often allude to the birth of a new Black American consciousness’ (2003, 50), therefore, Public Enemy can be seen as making a conscious attempt to strengthen their message by calling upon a key iconic figure like James Brown to empower their message, with the ultimate hope of making a larger impact upon their listener. Moving on from the samples of James Brown it is important to recognise the effect of sampling Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff” (1973). The song is imbued with politics and references to an oppressive society imagined by Marley; arguably reflecting the world as he saw it. The sample of “Sheriff” acts as a backing vocal for Public Enemys’ rap lyrics and it gives them an evocative backdrop upon which they can embed all of their political arguments and beliefs. Marley’s lyrics place him in the position of a man who is wrongly accused of shooting somebody, but


whom accepts responsibility for acting in self-defence. It appears as though Marley is creating an analogy for the relationship between dominant white ideology and the oppression of African-American people. It would suggest that African-Americans are represented unfairly and that they suffer the wrongful accusations of white oppressors. This makes the song particularly relevant to the study of the ‘hood’ being explored here. When we consider the effects of social conservatism, and in particular Reaganite policy, it can be argued that as a political movement, it set out to demonise black people and their communities as a way of removing the blame for a rise in crime and poor living conditions from politicians and government. Watkins notes that: Reaganism would explain the rapidly depreciating conditions of urban ghettos and the increasingly poverty-stricken status of children as the result of cultural deficiencies endemic to ghetto life, thus exempting society, racism, and profound structural and economic transformations from any responsibility’ (1998, 40). With this in mind, a song like “Sheriff” becomes an important symbol of what is wrong with such a system of values. Its representation of the unfair treatment of an innocent man reflects the unfair treatment of the innocent African-American. Therefore, by utilising a sample from Bob Marley’s song, Public Enemy reinforce their message of inequality and the need to fight for justice and equal rights for all. By incorporating such powerfully political samples Public Enemy pose a challenge to the popular representations of young, black males. Many mainstream images and texts during the 1980’s depicted the criminal as being ‘young, male, black and poor’ and as a result, young African-American males were ‘figured as the enemy within’ (Watkins, 1998, 38). “Fight” is a song about standing up and rejecting these


depictions by coming together and uniting against the wrongs of contemporary society. Therefore, by using the sample taken from “Sheriff”, the chorus of “Fight” is imbued with the powerful presence of James Brown and Bob Marley, providing intense political grounding within the context of African-American beliefs and values. Another influential, African-American icon whose music is sampled for “Fight the Power” is Afrika Bambaataa. A very brief sample of his song “Planet Rock” (Bambaataa, A, 1982) can be heard at the end of the first chorus. The reason this sample is so significant is due to Bambaataa’s influence upon African-Americans, both musically and politically. With regards to his musical influence, Vincent notes that ‘the contemporary black music style of remaking seventies records and the showcasing of older artists on state-of-the-art beats were all pioneered by Bambaataa’ (2004, 483). This highlights how influential a figure he was, as the vast majority of African-American produced music during the 1980’s and 1990’s involved the reinvention of older songs and genres. Further to this Bambaataa led a much more political movement called the Zulu Nation that based its values heavily on the values of Afrocentrism, which in turn became very influential to many African-Americans in 1980’s America. The next notable sample is West Street Mobs’ “Let’s dance (make your body move)” (1981), as it appears at a number of key moments in Do the Right Thing and reasserts the message Lee is trying to convey in his film. It has this effect due to the lyrical content that is sampled, and in turn, the reference those lyrics make to early hip-hop culture and African-American music. “Let’s Dance” incorporates a number of styles and genres in its overall presentation, including electro, funk and disco, all of which can be seen as deriving from rhythm and blues and soul, and can


be traced back to even earlier styles of African-American music and history. Listening to the sample within the context of its original song suggests that the words “come on and get down” connote a sense of coming together, and encourage us to get involved in the fun atmosphere created by the song. However, when the words are placed amongst the sampled grunts of James Brown, and the rhythmic bass line taken from the J. B’s’ in “Hot Pants Road” the sample takes on a rousing energy. It is the use of the sample in “Fight” that encourages the listener and inspires them to become active, and not merely sit by and watch passively. Public Enemy appear to be speaking to their audience via the use of sampling. They want us to hear what they have to say, and want us to respond to it by making our own stand against the inequality of American society. Much like all of the other samples already mentioned then, “Let’s Dance” is meticulously placed amongst other samples to convey a political message to the listener. Another sample utilised is “Teddy’s Jam” by Guy (1988). In “Teddy’s Jam”, an influential black musical icon is evoked in Teddy Riley. Riley and his band Guy are attributed with developing the ‘New Jack swing sound, which was essentially traditional soul vocals melded to hip-hop beats’ (Huey, 2010). The clever unison of a popular style of African-American music (soul), and modern contemporary beats and rhythms enabled a traditionally black style of music to infiltrate the mainstream once again. Much like the specific placement of “Let’s Dance”, “Teddy’s Jam” achieves a message as a result of being placed in relation to numerous other samples. Also, as a song that established a new African-American sound, we can see how it can be regarded as influential, and could be seen as an example of how African-American people, in joining together have created some of the most influential aspects of contemporary popular culture. This illustrates the importance


of popular culture to African-American people, it is a place where their views and values can be expressed and conveyed to people on a mass scale. The final sample relevant to our study is taken from “I Know You Got Soul” by Bobby Byrd (1971). It is heard at two key moments during the film and appears to appeal to the listeners’ sense of what is right; these moments will be discussed in detail later. First, we must explore the importance of the samples original context. Bobby Byrd established himself as a talented solo artist, and further to this, he is recognised as playing a key part in the career of James Brown. For example, Byrd and his family sponsored Brown’s parole from prison. Byrd also gave Brown a spot in his vocal group (Unterberger, 2010). Byrd was integral to Brown’s career, meaning that numerous musicians and dedicated Brown fans recognised this over time. His sound was very much like Brown’s and the vast majority of his solo work was produced by Brown. Byrd’s close ties to such a key African-American icon present him as an important black voice within popular culture. Therefore, when the words ‘I Know You Got Soul’ are used in a song by such a respected figure within the black community, a degree of interest is created. The lyrics, ‘I Know You Got Soul’ appeal to the listener and ask us to do the right thing, encouraging us to stand up against dominant ideology and its oppressive values when we hear them. The song provokes thoughts of the 1970’s, a decade that saw an awakening of African-American consciousness; as a result, the sampling of it empowers Public Enemy’s “Fight”. Demers notes that, ‘works by Public Enemy, Ice Cube, the Fugees and others make both subtle and obvious mention of this decade, interpreting it as a period in which blacks as a whole began to demand control of their own political destinies’ (2003, 53). With her comment in mind, we can see how such samples may affect our interpretation of a song, and in turn how


their use within a narrative like Lee’s Do the Right Thing (DtRT) can affect the overall understanding we have of a particular scene. We can see first-hand, AfricanAmericans attempting to take control of how they are perceived by the rest of the world. With the samples explored so far, it is now important to explore their significance in relation to their placement within the diegetic world of DtRT. Many of the individual scenes in Lee’s film serve as powerful vehicles for his own political viewpoint, so by analysing how samples are utilised within some of these scenes we can ascertain an understanding of the meanings they provide to an audience. The first most notable scene is where we initially hear “Fight” within the diegetic world of the film. A group of young African-Americans are sat together, arguing about something trivial, and at this point one of the male characters says to a female character, “Yo, Ella! You got a brain right? Use it!” At this point, the camera pans around to show an intense close up shot of Radio Raheem, a militant young, black male, holding a portable stereo that is blasting out the introductory section of Public Enemy’s song “Fight the Power”. This section encompasses the samples of “Hot Pants Road”, “Funky Drummer”, “I know you got soul”, “Pump me up”, and “Let’s dance”. Baring all of the information sourced regarding each of these samples in mind, it is possible to understand this scene as a message from Lee to his audience. Firstly, Trouble Funk’s key involvement with the “go-go” scene, as discussed earlier, establishes “Pump” as being reflective of the rebirth of African-American identification; with that knowledge we can see how Lee is encouraging his audience to recognise the importance of black history. It is this kind of socio-political awareness that Lee appears to be advocating as the right way to achieve racial equality and political harmony, therefore, by utilising a sample like this one in


relation to the scene in question, he successfully conveys a message regarding the importance of historical, political, and social awareness. Lee is stressing the necessity of educating young African-Americans as a means of bringing about real social and political change. The other samples applied to the same scene serve to reinforce Lee’s viewpoint. In “Funky Drummer” there is reference to a key African-American icon in James Brown, and in “ I know you got soul” a connection to ancestral African-American values and beliefs is established; combined with this are the perpetuating lyrics from “Let’s dance”, and the punctuating bass line of “Hot Pants Road”. Together, these samples create a resonating effect that tap into the subconscious of the audience and implores them to search for what is right, and to stand up against societies’ persistent ignorance of African-American culture, its history and its values. The juxtaposition of young African-Americans squabbling amongst one another and the highly politicised depiction of Radio Raheem exhibits how Spike Lee uses his characters to carry messages. Radio Raheem is an embodiment of political expression and acts as an intermediary figure that projects an important message throughout the film on behalf of Lee’s own directorial viewpoint. Lee is making an attempt to appeal to both young and older generations of African-Americans through the powerful message conveyed by the image of Radio Raheem and “Fight the Power”. The younger generation he appeals to is represented by the gang of youths sat on the steps during the scene, whilst Mister Senor Love Daddy is representative of any older generation. However, the responses to this message differ between the younger characters and the older characters: the young people, although fighting amongst themselves, acknowledge “Fight” and its politics, Senor Love Daddy does not; he merely looks at Raheem through a glass window and


never actually hears the song. In fact, upon recognising Raheem’s presence he continues to play records that arguably reflect an alternate viewpoint, and manages to drown out the sound of “Fight”. It appears as though Lee is suggesting that as a result of persistent encouragement, young African-Americans could be encouraged to rise up and fight for what is right. Whereas, comparatively, older generations of African-American people may provide more of a challenge suggesting that they are far more complacent and accepting about the state of post-civil rights America. Another scene from Do the Right Thing (DtRT) that is affected by the presence of the samples in “Fight the Power", is where the community come together to play in the water being sprayed from the fire hydrants. The sounds of laughter and the sequence of images depicted by the scene are combined with the music of Steel Pulse’s “Can’t Stand it” (1989). As a result a sense innocence and community is conveyed to the viewer yet. However, Lee infiltrates this portrayal through a clever utilisation of sound, interfering with the nondiegetic groove of “Can’t Stand it” by applying “Fight” to the diegesis; blaring again from Raheem’s portable stereo, creating a sonic disparity. These contrasting sounds evoke a sense of unrest and unsettle the pleasant and care free atmosphere evoked by this scene. To reinforce this move, Lee utilises Raheem as a visual counterpoint of the distaste he feels towards this type of mindless and careless behaviour. Raheem appears to be aggravated by what he sees upon his arrival making it possible to recognise how he successfully serves as the visual embodiment of Lee’s personal values, serving as a voice for him, amongst all of the other competing voices projected by the film. As Watkins notes ‘Do the Right Thing can be best understood as an arena, a meeting place in which different discourses encounter each other and struggle for supremacy (1998, 164). The manipulation of the sonic and visual components of


this scene illustrates Watkins’ point effectively. On the one hand, the audience is provided with a visual representation of the ghetto that differentiates itself from typical depictions of poor African-American communities, suggesting that life in the hood is peaceful, easy going and happy; but on the other hand, the sound of Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power”, provided by Raheem’s portable stereo, acts as an intervention of sorts, and forces the audience to acknowledge that problems still exist in relation to the inequality of society. Raheem’s presence, along with the music expelled from his stereo provides a contradictory tone to the nondiegetic use of Steel Pulse’s “Can’t Stand it”. The sonic presence of “Fight” within the diegesis, and the visual dominance of Raheem contrast with the careless behaviour of the other young African-American characters. It appears as though Lee is suggesting that the potential of African-American youth is not being achieved and he makes it very clear that he sees this as one of the contributing factors to the perpetuation of the conditions of ghetto life. Amidst the chaos of this scene only a short section of “Fight the Power” is heard, however the samples in that section effectively reinforce Lee’s message. Most importantly in relation to this scene, is the use of Afrika Bambaataa and Soulsonic Forces’ “Planet Rock” which recalls the movement led by Bambaataa in the early 1980’s. Bambaataa is recognised as one of the founding fathers of the Zulu Nation who were ‘a group of like-minded Afrocentric musicians’ (Bush, 2010). On Afrocentrism, Howe notes that: Afrocentrism may, in its looser sense or more moderate forms, mean little more than an emphasis on shared African origins among all ‘black’ people, taking a pride in those origins and an interest in African history and culture – or those aspects of New World cultures seen as representing


African ‘survivals’ – and a belief that Eurocentric bias has blocked or distorted knowledge of Africans and their cultures (1998, 1). With Howe’s description of Afrocentrism, we can see the impression Lee was trying to make upon his narrative by evoking a musical embodiment of Afrocentric beliefs and values that are personified by Bambaataa. The use of “Planet Rock” appears to be more about the referencing of Bambaataa than the content of the actual song. Therefore, by placing a reference to Bambaataas’ political and social stance in the midst of the chaos depicted by the scene in Do the Right Thing, Lee manages to convey an argument for the mobilisation of young African-Americans as a means of achieving greater equality between white and black America. To reinforce the message further the samples of “Teddy’s Jam” by Guy, “Funky President” by James Brown, and “Hot Pants Road” by The JB’s can all be heard. As mentioned earlier, “Funky President” recalls a key African-American icon in Brown, and “Hot” does much to establish a sonic call for persistence with its metronomic and consistent groove. The presence of “Teddy’s Jam” acknowledges the ability to influence the world when a group of young African-Americans come together and develop new ideas, perfectly contributing to the message evoked by Lee’s construction of this scene. To fully illustrate the overwhelming effect of sampling on Do the Right Thing, it is now important to analyse the use of sound in one of the films’ most pivotal scenes: when Radio Raheem enters Sal’s pizzeria for the first time. This scene encapsulates the films’ political nuances by juxtaposing the militant impression the viewer has of Raheem with the characterisation of Sal, who is portrayed as tolerant towards the black community, so long as it poses no threat to him or his pizzeria. However, an even deeper level of meaning can be explored when we analyse the sound applied


to the scene. Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” dominates the diegesis due to the excessively loud volume of Raheem’s portable stereo. It causes all of the characters within the scene to raise their voices and as a result, it creates a sense of tension. This tension gives the scene a feeling of aggression and anger, which is ultimately reflected by Sal’s response to hearing the song. The music heard is from the section leading up to and including the chorus of “Fight the Power”. The most notable sample heard is taken from Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff”, which is also accompanied by the drum loop taken from James Brown’s “Funky Drummer”, the rousing vocal chant from West Street Mob’s “Let’s Dance (make your body move)” and the consistent bass line sampled from the JB’s “Hot Pants Road”. Firstly, and arguably most importantly we should discuss “Sheriff”. As discussed earlier, the lyrical story in “Sheriff” can be seen as an analogy for the unfair representation and depiction of African-American people and their communities. Therefore, by applying this understanding of “Sheriff” to the scene in Sal’s pizzeria, much larger issues become apparent: this is not just about the racial tension depicted by Do the Right Thing; this is about the disparity between the lives of black and white people in 1980’s/1990’s America. The behaviour of the characters during the scene in Sal’s pizzeria combined with Public Enemy’s politicised use of “Sheriff” establishes a true dividing line between two opposing political viewpoints. Sal and his sons arguably reflect the socially conservative values of 1980’s America, whereas Radio Raheem and Buggin’ Out represent an opposing critique of that system of values. To reinforce this critique, the presence of “Sheriff” represents an antithesis to dominant ideology and as a result this scene provides a powerful portrayal of the issues that faced America during the 1980’s and 1990’s.


On the use of “Fight” during this scene Reid wrote that ‘Radio Raheem’s Public Enemy not only imposes music upon Sal’s space but infuses the popular neighbourhood hangout with unwelcome social criticism from a young, urban, black male perspective’(1997, 64). Therefore, by infiltrating the silence of Sal’s pizzeria with the politics of “Fight”, and in particular here the sample of “Sheriff”, Lee successfully conveys the idea of having a voice and actively opposing dominant values and beliefs. However, Sal’s heated requests for Radio Raheem to turn off the music are eventually successful, as Raheem reluctantly does so. Therefore, the politicised voice of a song like “Sheriff” is aired within the film, through its sampled use in “Fight”, but symbolically it is eventually stamped out. This act of submission can be seen as a reflection of the problems within contemporary American society; African-Americans are led to believe that they have a strong voice in American society, yet when they try to make it heard it is repeatedly ignored and trounced by dominant policy. Moving on, the sample of “Let’s Dance”, as previously discussed, has a rousing energy due to the repetition of the words “come on and get down”. These lyrics reinforce Lee’s intention to convey the importance of standing up for what is right, and the opposition towards dominant ideology. “Let’s Dance” embodies a sense of coming together and community, therefore its use in the same scene as “Sheriff” again suggests that a coming together of African-American people is necessary to enable their voices to be heard in an influential manner. Accompanying both “Sheriff” and “Let’s Dance” is the consistent groove provided by the bass line from “Hot Pants Road” and the percussion from “Funky Drummer”. The presence of this combined rhythm section maintains the consistent evocation of the importance of persistence, and again reflects the ongoing struggle for equality, consistent with that


of African-American history. Reid notes ‘for Lee, black musical production reflects black history and politics’ (1997, 52). Therefore, by applying samples of such influential African-American music to Do the Right Thing, Lee enables the film to be intricately layered with meaning that appears to dress down the values of dominant ideology. It is clear that the careful manipulation of audio sampling has a unique and powerful effect upon any understanding of African-American people and their values taken from a reading of Do the Right Thing. Therefore, the overall use of “Fight the Power”, and more importantly the application of its samples to key moments of DtRT establishes a fundamental relationship with African-American history, key to Lee’s projection of the films overall message. We must now conduct a similarly detailed analysis of the use of visual sampling in Tales from the Hood (Cundieff, 1995). In particular, the focus of discussion is the final segment of the films’ four parts, entitled Hardcore Convict (HC). HC is a short tale about a young African-American male, known as “Krazy K”, who is involved in gangland activity and crime. Following the murder of other young African-American gangsters, “K” is sentenced to life imprisonment. In an attempt to reduce his sentence, he agrees to undergo a behavioural modification programme. This is where “K” is subjected to a montage of visual samples, with the intention of making him see the error of his ways. By analysing the overall effect of this montage, coupled with a detailed analysis of each image that comprises to create it, we should be able to illustrate the effect of visual sampling upon the film. However, in contrast to our analysis of Do the Right Thing, the visual samples are only applied to one scene. Therefore, a discussion of the overall message conveyed


by the montage sequence will be necessary once we understand the importance of the visual samples utilised within it. Before conducting this study, it is important to note the type of analysis that will be applied to each sample discussed. To derive any meaning from them we will need to explore each in relation to its original context, and its placement within the sequence of visuals in “Hardcore Convict” (HC). This will mean conducting some sort of semiotic analysis of the samples. Semiotics will help us to recognise the messages that each image conveys to an audience. Eco’s definition of semiotics will be a suitable place to start in relation to this discussion; he wrote, ‘semiotics is concerned with everything that can be taken as a sign’ (Eco, 1976 cited in Chandler, 2007, 2). With this in mind, all of the visual samples compiled in the montage sequence in HC, can be seen as signs that signify something to an audience. Therefore, we must explore what it is that is signified by the signifying sample. This should provide us with a historical insight into each of the samples explored and give us an understanding of why they were used in this film, and more interestingly the significance of their use during the mid-nineties. Firstly, it should become evident that within the narrative of HC that the images applied reinforce the idea that “K” is doing the work of white oppressors, like the Ku Klux Klan, by killing fellow African-Americans. Secondly, through semiotic analysis, it should become clear that the placement of these images can be seen as didactic as they serve to remind the viewer of the racial and social oppression felt by AfricanAmericans since the abolition of slavery. This will highlight how a film like Tales from the Hood can be seen as a response to the values of dominant white ideology. Referring to this cycle of hood films Watkins notes, ‘the production of the film cycle was the consequence of a complex web of social, economic, and cultural


factors’ (1998, 171). Therefore, a film like Tales, and in particular the montage sequence employed in HC, can be seen as a response to dominant ideology and an attempt to influence public consciousness concerning race relations and AfricanAmerican culture. To see the extent of the claims made so far, a selection of samples must now be analysed in order to ascertain the meaning they may convey. However, as we progress through some of the key samples within the montage sequence it is important to understand that each is placed alongside another historical image, or juxtaposed with a filmic image of gangland fighting. These gangland images depict young African-American males shooting and killing each other in a setting that appears to display all the mise en scene associated with stereotypical images of the ghetto. These filmic images are as frequent as the visual samples they are juxtaposed with, and as a result, they add to the meaning of each of the samples and to the overall effect of the sequence. One of the first examples of visual sampling is the image of a group of Ku Klux Klan members holding burning crosses aloft in their right hands. It is suggested that this image was taken at a Klan rally at some point during 1922. This period of Klan history was part of what is known as the second phase, as the group had previously been forced to disband due to ‘changing conditions and martial law’ that ‘combined to bring the invisible empire to an end by 1871’ (Chalmers, 1981, 2). This illustrates how the Klan is a group that seems to grow in strength and numbers during periods of dramatic change in societal values and interests, or periods of white disenchantment with government policy. The image in question depicts a rally that took place during the second incarnation of the Klan, and when one considers that the image was taken in 1922, the aftermath of World War One


becomes important to the meaning of the image. At this time ‘returning soldiers swelled the ranks of unemployed’ (Luebke, 2005, 246) and it was felt among the dominant white communities that jobs should be given to white Americans, resulting in much of the racial tension that arose during this period. Now that we have some historical grounding for the image we can analyse the semiotics of it. Firstly, the circulation of an image depicting the Klan bearing burning crosses denoted a sincere message of intent to disenchanted white Americans. It was an evocation of the Klan’s history; a history of taking vigilante style action against those whom they feel are a threat. The burning crosses, gowns and hoods made them appear to be an army of sorts. As a result, this image was massively influential in encouraging a cross-section of American’s to involve themselves in the Klan politics. With regards to the clothing worn by the Klan, Rubinstein notes, the Klan attire was ‘worn to frighten blacks and to avoid personal responsibility’ (2001, 221). Therefore, an image like this one showed how it was possible to partake in Klan activity whilst retaining anonymity; this would have carried some obvious appeal to those who knew such actions were wrong but felt them necessary to achieve their own aims. The connotations of this image are more far reaching, and as a result have an even more powerful impact upon an onlooker. The image of the burning cross evokes thoughts of the devil and hell, and resonates with all people due to the powerful symbolism of a cross; therefore, by setting it alight it is as if hell is being opened up. In addition, the image of the burning cross offered ‘a stark symbol of earlier lynching’s’ (Blee, 2002, 170). With this powerful reminder of the Klan’s evil past, fear would have been generated amongst those who were most threatened by the Klan’s politics. This image may have also served as a reminder for Klan members


and their followers of the groups’ history, and the action it may have taken in the past. The power generated by the image of a burning cross, accompanied by the depiction of a group of Klan members holding crosses, dressed in similar attire portrays a sense of unity, connoting an army of sorts. This helped to convey the threat that the Klan ultimately posed by suggesting that this was a political persuasion held by many. The colour of their uniforms was largely white, which much of western society understands as a colour that signifies goodness and purity. By dressing in this colour, the Klan reinforces its belief that it is the pure race. In contrast to this, they appear in front of a black background giving them a ghostly presence, and a sense of something non-human. It is arguable then that the Klan were utilising the fear tactic taken from the first phase of their existence; as Fry notes, ‘the Klan relied almost exclusively on the Blacks’ fear of ghosts, intimidating them by capitalising on their known superstitions’ (1975, 113). The image of the Klan upon a hill, baring fiery crosses against the backdrop of black sky connotes numerous messages of evil and evokes the danger posed by the Klan at this time. Cundieff’s visual sampling uses stark and graphic images of murdered AfricanAmerican people. There are numerous images of young African-Americans hanging from trees and lampposts, or being burnt alive, with large groups of white folk gathered around watching. One of the most powerful and upsetting images included in the montage is the photograph of Will Brown’s body being cremated upon a pyre. Will Brown had been accused of assaulting a white woman, and was being held in a Nebraska county jail. The timing of his incarceration was key to the race riot that occurred and his eventual death. Luebke notes the ‘feelings of dissatisfaction and resentment’ (2005, 246) at this time that led to striking by trade


unions. This in turn led to the owners of big business drafting in replacement workers from Chicago, most of whom were African American. As a result of these events there was an abundance of ‘sensationalist journalism’ described by Luebke (2005, 246), that placed responsibility for local problems and economic fissures upon this influx of people (African-Americans). The increasing tensions surrounding black migrant workers and the economic downfall, accompanied by accusations posited towards Will Brown led to the riots that occurred on September 28th 1919, which ultimately concluded with the death of the young black male. Tolnay and Beck suggest that ‘whites lynched African-Americans when they felt threatened in some way – economically, politically, or socially’ (1995, 2). In this instance, Brown’s murder can be seen as an expression of the fear that white people had of the changing cultural and social landscape. The photo of Brown’s burning body conveys an abundance of ideas about the societies and values that existed during this period, and more generally about the volatile nature of relationships between black and white people following the American Civil War. Brown’s body is positioned on the fire like another piece of flammable material. He is lifeless and is unrecognisable; he is yet another faceless casualty of racist aggression. The type of white people seen in this photo believed that the black man had no place in their world, and that he did not deserve humane treatment. The image of the burning corpse evokes horrific connotations of the images depicted by horror movies, but juxtaposed with the smiling faces of the white people surrounding the fire; the reality of the event is reinforced. Due to its authenticity, the viewer of this image is reminded that they are not witnessing something from a horror film; they are witnessing an event that took place in American history. This allows the brutality and evil of such an occurrence to be


fully evoked. Another important point is that the surrounding people are not masked, like those who are members of the Klan; these people appear to be proud of what they have done; they believe it is right. The appearance of human faces in the background of such a horrific event establishes some grounding for us to witness the darkness of human history. These are real people with mothers, fathers, and children who are stood watching another human-being dying in the most abhorrent of fashions. This conveys the sickness, and depravity of racism and its relationship with human history. In a symbolic sense, the image of Will Brown’s burning body can be seen to conjure up the audacity of white American behaviour during such a transitional period of the development of racial equality. It represents the evil that exists within human beings, and the superficiality of their ways. Further to this, the image with its connotations of evil and hell, and the connotations of the devil and his minions evoked by the hoards of white people in the background, reminds the viewer of the torrid path taken to achieve the apparent racial equality of the present day. This image ultimately strikes fear into its onlooker: African-Americans may empathise with the pain felt by Brown and his family, while white viewers may feel afraid of their own dark history, and the capabilities of those of a similar race. Any humane person, will see this image as didactic in nature; a reminder of the dangers that racial segregation and racist behaviour can lead to. Another murderous image placed within Cundieff’s montage is that of the limp, hanging body of Michael Donald. This image has a stark and unique presence within the sequence, as it is the only image of a murdered African-American shot in colour. This image is also massively symbolic due to the time of its occurrence. The lynching of Michael Donald happened in Mobile, Alabama in 1981, many years


after the selection of other similar images depicted by the montage sequence in HC. All of the previous images were pre-Civil Rights movement and this one was not. Therefore, the image carries with it suggestions that America has not moved on from its dark past, and that there are still people out there that harbour archaic values about race and society. The occurrence of Donald’s murder broadens the time line of systemic racial abuse and violence and establishes such behaviour in a far more contemporary period of history. As Tolnay and Beck note, ‘in the 117 years between the Thirteenth Amendment (1865), which abolished slavery, and the killing of Michael Donald, southern blacks were commonly the target of racial violence’ (1995, 2). This illustrates the extent of the racial violence, and how even though racial differences appeared to have subsided slightly by the 1980’s, they remained out of sight, and only surfaced themselves as a response to white fear of African-American people. Tolnay and Beck go on to say that; Michael ‘was killed as a reprisal against the black community and to confirm the power of the Ku Klux Klan in South Alabama. Michael Donald’s only “crime” was that of being a male African-American, who had the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time’ (1995, 2). This evokes the futility of such behaviour. Donald had done nothing wrong and yet he paid the ultimate price: all of this because the white folk of Alabama felt disdain towards the African-American community, following the murder of a white police officer. This is all reminiscent of what happened to Will Brown. Therefore, the combination of both images deploys a vast sense of history to the montage sequence that reasserts the brutality endured by African-American people. A semiotic analysis of the image provides connotations of the numerous lynching’s conducted by southern American white folk in the early part of last century. It also


provides us with a more visually graphic representation of the brutality of such an act. Donald’s dress denotes a very contemporary style of fashion and as a result is all the more painful to look at. This is because the image reminds us of people we may associate with ourselves who dress in a similar fashion, as a result making it much more tangible. In addition, the image shows how Donald’s lifeless body is hanging from a tree in a typically suburban part of America, connoting images of our own homes, or the homes of people we know and love. This image is so relevant and real to us that when placed in relation to the other images surrounding it, it serves as a reminder that racism, and the violence that comes with it has not gone away. The sampled images representing America’s torrid history of racial affairs that are employed by Cundieff are interspersed with filmic representations of young African-American males involved in gangland violence. Numerous images of young black males attacking one another with guns reflect an aspect of AfricanAmerican life that occurs within the ghetto. This aspect of African-American life, as is the focus of this assignment, is reflected in numerous filmic representations, suggesting that those black directors that portray the hood recognise the inequality of contemporary American life. They feel that the problems that exist within the ghetto need to be voiced, and Cundieff follows a similar pattern. However, his style is far more didactic in approach, and levels criticisms upon African-American’s as well as white oppressors, as he juxtaposes images of gangland violence between African-American communities with images of racial violence conducted by white people over American history. In doing so, an important message regarding the behaviour of young African-Americans like “K” is evoked: young black men are doing the work of the Klan and of the white oppressor by killing one another. This


in itself symbolises the effects of ghetto life on African-American youth; the neglect of black communities by dominant ideology inevitably results in the dismantling of the importance of key values, resulting in the kind of violence depicted in the montage sequence. On an even deeper level, Cundieff’s use of visual sampling, like Spike Lee’s use of audio sampling, is a response to the inequality of post-industrial America, and opposes the demonization of the African-American community and its values in order to present itself as the antithesis to the socially conservative politics of the 1980’s and early 1990’s. As a result, it forms part of a discourse about AfricanAmerican life. Regarding films like Tales from the Hood, Watkins writes that: the films from the ghetto action cycle not only compete and circulate among each other; indeed, these films circulate among a broad universe of music videos, television programmes, news journalism, literature, and even political discourses, which each struggle to figure the representational landscape that renders post-industrial ghetto life more comprehensible’ (1998, 196). By considering “Hardcore Convict” as part of this discourse we are able to see the significance of Cundieff’s use of visual sampling. The images utilised by the montage sequence suggest that an imbalance still exists, and that the early part of last century was a difficult time for African-American people. In addition, he reminds us that these difficult times are far from over opposing the suggestion posed by dominant ideology that equality has been achieved. An example of this is the juxtaposition he makes between the images of Klan members protecting their identity by wearing hoods before committing a murderous act, with the image of young black males pulling balaclavas over their


head for the exact same purpose. American society has not moved on, and Cundieff’s montage serves to reinforce the idea that this will not change unless racial harmony is achieved by reaching equality for all. The images of masked killers, along with all of the other samples discussed, in relation to each other within the montage, exhibit how the use of visual sampling serves as an oppositional response to contemporary American politics. After an in-depth analysis of both Do the Right Thing, and the fourth section of Tales from the Hood, called “Hardcore Convict”, we can now see the importance of the relationship between sampled artefacts, both visual and audio, and the responses made by African-American directors to mainstream depictions of AfricanAmerican people and their culture. Firstly, the detailed analysis of the audio samples heard in some of the key scenes in Do the Right Thing (DtRT) gave us the tools by which we could make an attempt to understand any message Lee was trying to convey. By acknowledging the timing of each sample in relation to onscreen events we can assume that Lee was trying to make his own voice heard in and amongst the competing voices of society. The sampled music in Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power”, applied specifically to key moments of DtRT, suggests a number of things about what Lee is trying to say, evoked by the power of audio sampling. As McClary notes, ‘music, along with other influential media such as film, teaches us how to experience our own emotions’ (1991, 151). Therefore, through the application of sampled music to DtRT we can see why Lee may have attempted to asserting his exact politics through a complex web of musical cues. These cues help us to ultimately recognise the discontent he feels towards dominant ideology through the presence of Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff”, or to recognise evidence of his belief that equality can only be achieved through the unison of


active and politically motivated people, illustrated by the presence of “Planet Rock” by Afrika Bambaataa, “Pump Me up” by Trouble Funk, or even the short sample of “Teddy’s Jam” by Guy. This process allows Lee to let his own voice be heard in and amongst the other competing voices within society; many of these voices are presented by powerful characters and their dialogue, but his own is represented by sampled music. The in-depth analysis of some of the key visual samples applied to “Hardcore Convict” provided us with enough resources to explore the impact of visual sampling upon a film. The short section of the film where Cundieff employs sampling contains images of the Ku Klux Klan and murdered African-American people. The application of these images helped Cundieff to establish his work within the realms of reality, meaning that any message he was trying to convey to his audience would have a truly resonating effect upon them. Usually, when we see horrific images in film we are usually able to denounce them as unreal or fantasy, however, with “Hardcore Convict” we are not. These are real images, and accompanied by the behaviour of the character of “Krazy K”, the events they depict are as real and horrific as the conditions endured by African-Americans in contemporary American society. Gang related deaths exist within the ghetto today, and arguably the problem of young African-American people killing one another in gang related crime reflects the audacity of the murderous crimes conducted by the Klan. Although less African-American’s are affected by mobs like the Klan in present day society they are still forced out on to the margins of it, and are treated like second rate citizens. Therefore, it is arguable that the presence of sampled images within the HC gives it an authenticity that is meant to educate the young African-American viewer on the futility of fighting one another, whilst encouraging


other parts of society to recognise the problems created by the disparity between the welfare of African-American people and white American people. It is clear then that the use of sampling helps to reinforce the responses made by Spike Lee and Rusty Cundieff, in their respective films, to the dominant ideological values, and mainstream representations of African-Americans during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. By recognising the significance of sampling to these films, we are acknowledging the powerful effect of both popular culture and history upon the mindset of an audience. It is this very effect that has been of most interest to this study: the cryptic and sometimes explicit use of recognisable sounds or images in conjunction with a piece of narrative film that serves the purpose of educating and persuading a person with regards to contemporary problems within society, with particular focus on African-American filmmakers and African-American culture. Therefore, the importance of sampling and in turn popular culture as a whole to African-American people cannot be underestimated. Whilst ‘conservatives view the popular mediascape as a bastion of permissiveness and nihilism that erodes public civility’ and an aspect of culture that apparently ‘antagonises traditional American values by promoting violence, sexual promiscuity, and familial disintegration’ (Watkins, 1998: 29); African-American filmmakers clearly see it as a means of projecting a much fairer representation of their people. The presence of sampling then can be seen as playing a huge part in creating that fair depiction.

Word Count: 11, 104.



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Song List:
Afrika Bambaataa and Soulsonic Force. (1982) ‘Planet Rock’. In Afrika Bambaataa and Soulsonic Force. Planet Rock: the album. (Audio Recording). USA: Tommy Boy/Warner Bros Records

Bobby Byrd. (1971) ‘I Know You Got Soul’. In Bobby Byrd. I Know You Got Soul: Single. (Audio Recording). USA: King Records

Bob Marley. (1973) ‘I Shot the Sheriff’. In Bob Marley. Burnin’. (Audio Recording). Jamaica: Tuff Gong

Guy. (1988) ‘Teddy’s Jam’. In Guy. Guy: Self-titled. (Audio Recording). USA: MCA


Public Enemy. (1989) ‘Fight the Power’. In Public Enemy. Do the Right Thing Soundtrack. (Audio Recording). USA: Tamla

James Brown. (1970) ‘Funky Drummer. In James Brown. Funky Drummer: Single. (Audio Recording). USA: King Records

James Brown. (1965) ‘Funky President’. In James Brown. Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag. (Audio Recording). USA: Polygram

The J.B’s. (1972) ‘Hot Pants Road’. In The J.B’s. Food for Thought. (Audio Recording). USA: Polydor

Trouble Funk. (1982) ‘Pump me up’. In Trouble Funk. Drop the Bomb. (Audio Recording). USA: Sugar Hill Records

West Street Mob. (1981) ‘Let’s Dance (make your body move)’. In West Street Mob. West Street Mob: Self-titled. (Audio Recording). USA: Sugar Hill Records



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