Eddie Murphy brings us a passion project of his. A hilarious homage to Rudy Ray Moore who many regard as a founder of rap. Phumlani S Langa is loving Dolemite Is My Name.
Dolemite Is My Name
Available on Netflix SA
In 1975, the film Dolemite was released and, much to the surprise of studio executives, was embraced by audiences in the US. The blaxploitation crime comedy depicts the life of a slightly pudgy but offbeat pimp named Dolemite, played by Rudy Ray Moore, who has tight moves and rhymes that are the opposite of light. Dolemite kicked ass, wooed women and rhymed to his heart’s delight.
Netflix has cleverly brought us a film about the film – the story of Moore, who grows tired of life just left of centre stage. In this biographical feature we see how Moore (played by Eddie Murphy) decided to flip his usual act at a dingy night club in New York. Instead of trying to do the boring one-liner-and-a-drumroll delivery, he draws inspiration from a neighbourhood drunkard who rhymes stories about a fictional pimp named Dolemite.
Moore adopts the character and brings it to life on stage, becoming a hood star with his name being thrown around in conversations. He decides to press a comedy album, which he then distributes independently for a while. After this and a successful tour around the country and even a period in which he charts on Billboard, Moore decides to take his talent to the big screen. In an abandoned hotel, Moore creates a film, Dolemite, that cost him $100 000 of his own money.
Dolemite Is My Name is such a well-put-together film and reports are that the depictions of the people involved in the unorthodox making of the original are spot on. The film feels a little like Ed Wood (1994) or The Room (2003) by Tommy Wiseau depicted by James Franco in The Disaster Artist (2017). But unlike them, Moore experienced success. His film was mocked and turned away, but his perseverance saw it gross more than $10 million, a healthy sum back then and even today.
There’s a scene in the film that takes place at the premiere, in which a chubby youngster is outside and can’t get in. He tells Moore that he is his biggest fan as he passes by. Moore then spends time rhyming with the youngster who adopts Dolemite’s flow and makes it about himself. His style of comedy and emceeing is what many people attribute to being the foundation of rap today. The term ‘MC’ is what Dolemite and those who followed for a while were doing. They were using rhyme schemes to curate a practice that was later adopted by the streets and block parties, and slowly percolated to what we know today as rap.
The film is a great release by Netflix. Craig Robinson of The Office brings it along as the iconic Ben Taylor, and the controversial but celebrated Wesley Snipes gives a performance you would not expect from him as the slightly vaunted actor D’Urville Martin, who starred in and directed Dolemite. If we put aside the controversy around his run-in with the law regarding tax evasion and forgive some of his choices in roles, we would do well to remember that this brother is quite good and this might honestly be the role of his career next to New Jack City.