Lil Bibby was not thrilled, but he agreed to meet in Times Square for a midday showing of Spike Lee's Chi-Raq anyways.
The Chicago rapper has been pretty nonplussed about the production since he first caught wind of it: "That Chiraq trailer look like a parody," he tweeted the day after the first teaser dropped. And even after seeing the film, he couldn't quite make sense of the Bamboozled-director's brightly-colored satiric rendering of the gritty real world he comes from.
Chi-Raq recasts "Lysistrata," Aristophane's fifth-century B.C. Greek comedy in which women go on a sex strike to stop men from fighting, in a modern day Chicago. Full conversations are held in rhyme; and purple and orange—the color of the Spartans' and the Trojan's flags, respectively—flash throughout.
"I want to speak to [Spike Lee] myself," he said. "What was he thinking that made him make this movie like that, what made him not do it like a documentary?" And of Lee's proposed cure for the plague of violence—women withholding sex from their men—Bibby wondered, "Does he think that would really work?"
Bibby speaks slowly and quietly, with a deepness and a drawl that you might not expect from a man of 21. Below, he sizes Spike Lee's Chi-Raq against his own.
What the film gets right:
It looked like our Chicago. The house [that Miss Helen (Angela Bassett)] was staying at, that looked like a building that I would know. Under the train station, I recognized that spot. He got the right look.
He got a few things right, like that there is a lot of killing going on in Chicago. I know a couple of my homies, they don't want no jobs. Maybe a couple of odd jobs. I offered some of my homies to come with me sometimes, and they don't want to do that. They'd rather sit on a corner. That's all they know. Really it's the young kids who are doing all the killing, and they don't want no jobs. Their momma got Section 8, they got they food stamps, they good—they got nothing to worry about. They just worry about their own little reputation, how they can be cool. And the cool thing to do is kill somebody.
He hit it right on the head [with the opening scene, when a shooting breaks up Nick Cannon’s character Chi-Raq’s concert]. When we go to our shows in Chicago, we come kind of deep and we bring some guns with us, because stuff like that can happen. They just portraying what's really going on. I don't feel no type of way about it, that's just how it is. I'm not proud of it. I think people need to see it, because I think something needs to be done with the city.
[When Father Mike Corridan (John Cusak) calls the local news an “urban reality show” during his sermon for a little girl who was killed by a stray bullet,] he hit it right on. When I do shows and stuff like that, I see a lot of white people. Different people, different kind of people from all races, people that you know don't know anything about [where we're from], they just be jumping around yelling, "Gang! Gang! Gang! Squad! Squad! Squad!" [Laughs] I think they do look at it like a TV show.
What the film gets wrong:
Chicago is not purple and orange. We don't gangbang like that. It's just like, every street—it's different blocks. And we don't meet up in different spots like that, and have meetings and shit like that. We don't have old guys in gangs. It's really just kids, smoking weed and drinking and lean, and somebody killed their cousin or their friend and they wake up everyday wanting to get their revenge. I guess that's the only way they know.
I don't think it would be so easy to just stop. Nobody is putting away no guns, we not putting away no guns. If you put away your gun, and you get caught without your gun, you get shot. You don't want to be first. I don't believe everybody was going to do it at the same time, like they do in the movie.
Can't nobody say nothing. I don't know. People will shoot at you with your mother. If I'm riding with my mother, somebody will shoot at our car. It ain't really something that nobody could do. Because like I said, if somebody killed your sister or brother, you gonna kill him and his mother.
"Spike Lee, I don't think he really understands the mindset. A lot of us don't know how to express or tell what's really going on in our mind. We don't see it, because we in it, doing it every day. "
What Lil Bibby would have liked to have seen in the film:
Everywhere I go, I see little fake gangbangers. Some of them be carrying their little guns with them and trying to act like they so hood, and I just be thinking to myself, I wish I could bring these people to where I'm from so they could really see. Some people think it's a game. I go to different states, like Atlanta, where it's legal to walk around with guns, and they just be thinking they all gangstas. We don't do anything like that. We keep guns because we need 'em. People gonna shoot at us, and we can't just be getting shot at and running. You got to shoot back. You got to have something to get them up off you.
I think it's time for a real documentary. This won't do it. I don't think it [is going to wake people up]. I don't think it will do anything. I'm not going to bash Spike Lee—he's a legend, I don't want to say anything bad about him. But did it wake me up? Not at all. It didn't do anything for me.
It's supposed to make you want to cry. A lot of the stuff that they were doing was funny. Even the whole rhyme scheme, that shit was just stupid. If you see some shit on Chicago, people need to want to cry at the end, not laugh, because it really is sad. Every time I leave for a week or two weeks, I come back and am like, damn! This place really is crazy.
What the term "Chiraq" means to Lil Bibby:
All of us as a collective put [the name “Chiraq”] on the map. We called it Chiraq because everywhere you go there are shootings, killings, stuff like that. I think we need a movie out there, cause every state I've been to is nothing like Chicago—I promise you. I just wish I could bring you there. We hang out on the street, on one block with all our homies. We keep just three or four guns just in case anybody ride through, because people want to kill us. It gets kind of crazy where sometimes any car will come, and we're just pulling them out at the car because so many of my homies have got killed. We're scared. I just be thinking sometimes like, “Damn, this shit is kind of crazy.” I think Spike Lee was probably trying to capitalize off of the Chiraq name. He made it colorful, I don't know if he thinks that solution would actually work.
"I think he was probably trying to capitalize off of the Chiraq name. He made it colorful. I don't know if he thinks that solution would actually work."
What Spike Lee should have done differently:
It's very unfair, because we raised up since kids [in “Chiraq”]. And if that's what we see, that's what we gon' do. Spike Lee, I don't think he really understands the mindset. A lot of us don't know how to express or tell what's really going on in our mind. We don't see it, because we in it, doing it every day. I think he should have sat down with a couple of other people to find out the mindset of the young kids and why they doing this stuff they doing before they make the movie. I don't know who he talked to, but they probably didn't give him the right message.