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Transcript, Let the World Listen Right

Transcript, Let the World Listen Right

Let the World Listen Right [1]

Directed by: Brian Graves, Jerome "Top Notch the Villain" Williams and Ali Colleen Neff [2]

Transcript and notes by folklorist Ali Colleen Neff

TopNotch: Basically like I said, it's all about like a soul cry, or what have you, I'll put it that way to sum it all up. [3]

[V/O: TopNotch beatboxing] [Title: Let the World Listen Right] [4]

[Beatboxing continues] [Close shot of Jerome "TopNotch the Villain" Williams sitting on a couch]

My name is Jerome Williams. Pretty much I want you all to know me as TOP: TopNotch the Villain and I'm 27 years old, straight from Clarksdale, Mississippi: better known as the Delta. [5]

[Shot of TopNotch beatboxing in his kitchen]

[Shots of TopNotch waking up, brushing his teeth, putting on his shoes] [6]

TopNotch [V/O]: The way of life, you know, far as Clarksdale or just in the Delta period, you know what I'm sayin', was brought up on, you know, gospel and blues or what have you. A good time, you know what I'm sayin', was on the weekend everybody sittin' outside drinkin beer, playin' spades and dominoes and listenin' to the blues. And then verses Sunday they all go to church to get their religion on. [7]

[Shot of TopNotch beatboxing] [Beatboxing continues as V/O]

TopNotch: [V/O]: OK now. Of course, we a wave of generation where, you know, rap and hip-hop was like some pretty good sounds in our ear.

[V/O: sounds of beatboxing] [Shot of TopNotch's hospital ID and TopNotch in white hospital uniform] [8]

[TopNotch walks to car in hospital uniform, starts car]

[Traveling shot of New World District, Clarksdale] [9]

TopNotch [V/O]: Pretty much what you see outside of me is what I call home. This is Clarks Vegas. You might know it as Clarksdale. But it's our little Clarks Vegas, you know. [10]

[Close up of TopNotch driving through Clarksdale]

TopNotch: It could be a city up on the rise, but however you know, we doin' some things now that we're pretty much hittin' just us up in our own foot.

[Traveling shot of Clarksdale's New World District]

TopNotch [V/O]: What they say, pretty much, what most raps are sayin' is that this is what they see and, you know, we actually in a sense if you listen to it, we actually tellin' that we are tired of this.

[Drives under trestle spray-painted with the word, "Clarksdale"]

[Shot of TopNotch driving as the sounds of his rapping fade up]

[Shot of TopNotch standing in front of a car in Clarksdale' Brickyard neighborhood. Small Tyme stands behind him] [11]

TopNotch: And it's all good

And I keep it to the game

And it's all hood

And if you still want the same

I can change good

Cause if I gave it to the bad

I'm still Top Notch man, I'm still kickin' grass, man,

I'm all in this thing

I'm all in the game

I'm all in the hood never changin' up a thang

I help you feel good but I'm still bringin' pain

I show it to the streets cause the streets will never change

I'm rockin me on raw beats

Knowin' that it's all me

Matter of fact I got a t-shirt to go and copy

Matter of fact I drop beat

If you wanna drop me,

I'm a give it all to the streets

I be about my issue (fades under)

TopNotch [V/O]: I just took one whole song or one instrumental beat by itself and I rap through the whole thing personally by myself. All if that's, you know, unscripted, you know, all of that was freestyle. Everything that you heard was straight off the dome. [12]

[Close-up shot of TopNotch from couch interview]

TopNotch: I feel like my talent with words and how the way I can use my words, is like, is what just electrifies some of the people, or just motivates the people or what have you, you know what I'm sayin'?

[Shot of Top rapping in front of the car]

TopNotch: (fades in) ?real, homie, and it's all on the good.

I told you this is my neck of the woods, Clarks Vegas!

[Friends and neighbors jump and shout as TopNotch finishes his rhyme]

Neighbors: Dirty South, Dirty South! [13]

Neighbor Woman #1: This is what we do!

Neighbor Man: Yeah!

Neighbor woman: Clarks Vegas baby, Clarks Vegas Baby!

Neighbor girl: Now somebody scream!

[Close up of TopNotch from couch interview]

TopNotch: It's not all about my worlds being serious, you know. Mines can be in the form of a joke, you know what I'm sayin'. I love to see people smile, to see people laugh see people have a good time and all that, you know?

[Shot of TopNotch rapping in his backyard with his 11-year old neighbors Derrick Jurden, Mario Haygen and Kevon Jurden] [14]

Kevon Jurden: Now I be in my Grandma's house thinkin' 'bout good things

and I be up in the kitchen tryin' to cook me some pork and beans

I'm a rhyme

Listen if you don't like it you can go look from behind

And I'm a make my cash and you can look from the past

Like a blast from the past I'm gonna last.

TopNotch: And outlast the criminals [15]

and outlast the snakes

keep your hearts in the real

and just don't deal with the fake

Grass for the lawn, baby,

Ain't gotta deal with the snakes

Just do whatever it takes just to make no mistakes.

Set 'em free.

Kevon Jurden: I'm a set 'em free and let 'em know what I came for

And if you don't like it you can go in the house door?[fades out]

[Shot of TopNotch on couch]

TopNotch: I been rappin' for quite some time now. About five years old. So that's a lot of years down there. [16]

[Shot of TopNotch and his cousin, Taurus Metcalf, on a bench in TopNotch's backyard]

[Sequence of TopNotch and his mother, Jeweline Williams, in her home in Lambert, Mississippi]

[Shots of a photo album with pictures of TopNotch as a child, photos of TopNotch's family on a wall]

TopNotch: This God-given talent, may be the case or what have you, your parents just wanna show you off-"Oh, he looks so cute, Oh, he's so cute. Won't you do this for me, baby?" And you didn't really want to do it, you know what I'm sayin', but you can't tell you momma "no" or she gonna whoop you or something, you know what I'm sayin'.

[Shot of TopNotch and Miss Williams on her couch][17]

Jeweline Williams: He could say all the commercials at a certain age. I remember he just be up in there doin' somethin' and he put it together and then he start sayin' his ABCs backward.

[Shot of TopNotch's album with a photocopied "Good Memory" award from his childhood]

TopNotch: Pretty much they say I had a good memory.

Jeweline Wiliams: Just like, he didn't know how to read and go in there, sit on the commode and put the book up like this here, bottom side up, I swear he readin'. And I'm like, come in there and ask him what in the world he doin', he'd say, "I'm readin'." Ask him what in the world it was: "Oh, I'm through now." He'd close the book and get down all nice and beautiful

TopNotch: And plus, I used to love reading all the time.

Jeweline Williams: The grades were good-it just was the hair. The hair. He didn't like combin' his hair.

TopNotch: (laughing) Movin' right along.

[Traveling shots of wet cotton fields in July]

[Music: Terry "Big T" Williams playing "Catfish Blues"] [18]

TopNotch [On camera, sitting in interview chair]: Agriculture. (laughs) Agriculture a type of way of being. And you know, that was our way of life, you know what I'm sayin'? If you know about Mississippi, if you want to know about Mississippi, then I'm just sayin', read about cotton. You know what I'm sayin'? You'll get pretty much all your answers about Mississippi. [19]

[Rolling shots of disheveled buildings and streets, historic train station, signs]

Damien Jurden [V/O]: I like almost everything. Only thing I don't like about Clarksdale is all this killin'. Killin' our family members. All this sensitive stuff goin' on all around here, we can't never do nothin'. If people keep killin', won't nobody never have no fun. [20]

[Shots of kids playing]

Kevon Jurden [On camera]: I like mostly everything about Clarksdale. The food tastes good, [V/O: Shot of barbeque sign] the people down here know how to cook, [On camera] and just to tell the truth, I can't picture none of my family members in no casket. [21]

[Shot of Big T playing the "Catfish Blues," a song that had been running over the previous footage.]

[Background music: "Catfish Blues"]

Terry "Big T" Williams" [22] [On camera: sitting with guitar in his living room]: I'm Big T, Terry Big T Williams, I'm from Clarksdale, Mississippi. [V/O: Shots of blues landmarks in Clarksdale] This town grew with the blues, or the blues greit up, one. I don't know how it happened. But now this town has became a tourist attraction year-round. And the music draws the attraction. [On Camera] If you come to Clarksdale looking for anything other than what we have to add or offer, you came to the wrong place.

[Shot of Big T playing "Catfish Blues"]

Big T [V/O: Shots of blues landmarks in Clarksdale]: When I was a kid growing up, blues was pagan. Parents say, "Oh, stop playin' that devil-worshippin' music in there, boy. Later that night, they left church and went to the juke joint, and they was dancin' to the same kind of music they told me to stop playin'. [23]

[Background music: Big T plays "I Be's Troubled"] [24]

[Shots of Clarksdale streets and tourist attractions]

Big T [On Camera]: I was raised on this kind of music, and I also heard in the background John Lee Hooker, Robert Johnson, Son House, Sonny Boy. You know, I can go on and on with the great guys, but when I met Frank Frost, Sam Carr and Big Jack, these guys showd me a whole different thing. They showed me love, they showed me understanding. They showed me...they gave me a piece of mind that I could always lean on. [25]

[V/O: Shots of Big T playing guitar as the backing track fades up]

Big T: I tell a lot of guys that I meet that the music has never been about us anyway. It's all about what the music can do for us. It can make us feel one way, it can make us feel another way. It can calm us down when we need to be calmed down. So music is-this is what these old guys taught me.

[Shots of Super Soul Shop and fancy shoes and clothes][26]

Big T [V/O]: People say that the blues is dyin' down here. Well, every time they say that, every time it comes out of their mouth, it means the blues is still goin' on It actually doesn't change. It's still the same. What they do is modify it. They take it to another level. [On Camera] Just like the rap. Rap cane from one industry. It came from being clean rap to hardcore rap, to dirty rap to low-down, shootin' guns, or whatever, you know. Okay, blues did the same thing. You had a happy blues, you got a good-feeling blues, you got a back-in-the-alley, cutthroat kinda blues. [27]

TopNotch [Sitting for interview]: How the way I'm doin' with my words is how the way he's doin' with his guitar. I mean, I feel like my words and how the way I'm placing 'em to where, you know, not only can they sound good, but just actually to make sense, you know, through logic is how the way he uses his guitar. It's the soul of a man, you know what I'm sayin', by just his finger and some strings, you know what I'm sayin'. [28]

[Music: sounds of hip-hop beats fade up]

[Shots of TopNotch rapping in Keithan "K-Deezy'" Dear's bedroom, writing rhymes as Deezy created beats on the computer] [29]

[Shot of TopNotch rapping from written page][30]

TopNotch [Rapping]: Loyalty and respect is everything up in the field

Hustlin' and grindin' just to-uh make a meal

Took five kids out the life of reality

And hopin' that we can live life out our fantasy

Bills gotta be paid, clothes gotta be on our back,

Hustle gotta be made?

[Music stops][Shot of Topnotch in car with newspaper in his hand]

TopNotch: I just received word that, um, my rap group, F.A.M., we on the front page of our local paper down here in Mississippi, the Clarksdale Press-Register. Now, to us, that's a very big thing. A very big thing. And you know what, I'm a do you all a favor. I'm a do you all a favor, I'm a show you a little clip right there. This is us right there. That's us right there. Can you see that? Can you see that? That's us right there. My man Small, K'Deezy. Yata, that's me Top Notch the Villain, and my boy Buggs Diego. Man, that's us right there. That's us right there. "Bridgin' the Gap from Blues to Rap," baby, that's it. Famous right there, that's all right. I told you, we keepin' the game T.O.P., baby. [31]

[TopNotch approaches Kimyata "Yata" Dear on the font lawn of her parents' house]

TopNotch: (To Yata) We on the front page too, pimpin', we there too. "Rappin' for peace, baby. Hey, and that's?

[Yata looks at paper, silent]

Yata Dear [V/O]: My name is Kimyata Dear, I'm 17 years of age and I'm from Clarskdale, Mississippi. [32]

[Shot of Yata sitting on her lawn]

Yata Dear: Jerome, Jerome, basically, I basically grew up with Jerome. He basically lived with us for a minute. I know him ever since I was young, so he like a brother.

[Shot of TopNotch approaching the Dear family front door with newspaper]

Yata Dear [V/O]: I started off listenin' to him so I'm like, I can rap.

[Shot of Yata sitting on her lawn]

Yata Dear [Rapping]: They say life is too short to live the same day twice.

So the money I made yesterday I gotta make it thrice.

Gotta do what I gotta do in certain situations of life.

"Cause [] has been defined as the joys of life.

But I have been through the fire and still I survive,

It's the pride that's inside that makes me rise.

[Shot of TopNotch and Timothy "Small Tyme" Williams rapping in Small Tyme's living room] [Music: TopNotch beatboxes along with the rhyme] [33]

Small Tyme: If you a red panther, put your hands up, put your hands up.

Back then, you wasn't even TOP.

It was in the makin', you was just Jerome to me.

Back then, it was just little Tim, it wasn't Small Tyme, but that's new to them.

TopNotch: I remember we was in first period?

Small Tyme: My name is Timothy Williams, aka Small Tyme. I started rappin, well, I say entertaining, my second grade classroom, was my first time, me and TOP did a rhyme, freestyle, we wrote a rhyme our second grade.

[Shot of group rapping in living room continues]

Keithan "K-Deezy" Dear [V/O]: My name is Kethan Dear, K'Deezy.

[Shot of K-Deezy sitting on back lawn in chair]

K-Deezy: My brother Small Tyme and T.O,P., they been doin' their thing for a minute. They been doin' their thing for a long time, rhymin', [V/O: Shots of TopNotch and Small Tyme rapping in living room] I remember they used to get stuff together in school, and they used to put it together and have stuff to do in front of 'em, poems, they used to rhyme it out, they always been into it. And TOP, he really been on it since the beginning, since I can remember.

[Music: Sounds of K-Deezy's hip-hop beats fade up] [34]

[Shots of Deezy and the group making music in Deezy's bedroom/studio]

K-Deezy [V/O]: My thought makin' beats, I don't try to make one particular type beat, if it's a different type, beat, I try to make it broad, I try to make different type of beats, all beats, you know, I wouldn't be stickin' to one page, when I say, K-Deezy do that, K-Deezy can do that. I can make any kind of beat, rock rap, all that. And I'm a computer freak, that's why I do all that type of stuff, anything I can do on the computer, I'm gonna try.

[Shots of Deezy recording in bedroom]

[Shot of Buggs Diego sitting in chair on the Williams' back lawn]

Anthony DeWayne "Buggs" Diego: When I hear one of K-Deezy's beats, I get the energy of, you know, [V/O: shots of computer running software and the group in the bedroom/studio] whether I should sing this or whether I should rap this, you know, but, as far as the spiritual energy goes, um, I feel sort of that same thing. When one of those beats is hot, I get the ebergy to say, ok, let me see what I can bring to it. My name is Buggs Diego. Well, real name is Anthony DeWayne Buggs. [V/O: Shots of Da F.A.M. rapping together in Williams living room] Sometimes I get the feeling that I need to sing a hook, or just straight up rap it. But I have a little singing influence in me, and so that comes from the church.

[Music: Group snapping, singing and rapping an improvised song about Clarksdale]

Buggs Diego: Clarks Vegas is the place [35]

It's the place that we from,

Group Members: Clarks Vegas is.

Buggs Diego: And no matter what we do,

It's the place that we from.

[Traveling shots of old housing and crumbling neighborhoods of Clarksale]

Yata Dear: [V/O] What's the hard thing about growing up in Clarklsdale, really is tryin' to do something, tryin' to get jobs and stuff. [On Camera, in backyard] Clarksdale is small. [V/O: Shots of Clarksdale] And the town is so little, every little store around here full, staff's full, you know, so it's really kinda hard gettin' a job in Clarksdale. [36]

[Music: rapping continues over pan shots of Clarksdale]

Yata Dear: [V/O] I can take a scene in Clarksdale that was like maybe a bad scene maybe a lot of stuff happened, maybe somebody got shot or whatever. And I can put that in a song to get people to, like you know, lower the crime rate or whatever. So that's how I use that.

[Shots of group rapping in living room]

TopNotch [rapping]: We a foster child, but we are all we got

Clarks Vegas is our spot, baby, it be hot.

[Close shot of Small Tyme sitting in his backyard]

Small Tyme: I always speakin' the truth about what we feel and how we feel things are goin' on. Especially with the economics in this town. [V/O: shots of poverty in Clarksdale] I mean, we need jobs, we need?we don't even have a YMCA in this town here, that's why so much crime goes on in this town here. I think a lot of outsiders don't get it. Don't listen to how the music sounds, listen to what we sayin'.

Small Tyme (rapping)[V/O]: From the blues, it was all good news,

I went to see Big Jack Johnson?[37]

[Shots of group rapping in living room]

TopNotch [V/O]: You know, you can't change the whole place, you know what I'm sayin'. That's almost like sayin' things ludachrous. However, you know, pretty much get the people that's willing to listen, you know [V/O: Shots of Lan-Lan's barbershop and customers in downtown Clarksdale] People that just want to have some type of changes in life or whatnot. And then, you know, you work with that. And maybe then you go out and you get the people that you can reach and could be the people they can reach. And you know, it's a transforming experience. It's, you know, a domino effect thataway. [Pan camera: Shot from indoor interview] So, pretty much, it all starts from that one person just having the drive, have the idea, have the motivation to get something done, but just need just the manpower or the tools or the right essentials just to get that task completed.

[Shot of group rapping in living room]

Da F.A.M. (rapping/singing): Clarks Vegas is the place

It's the place where we from

And no matter what you do,

It's the place that we from (yeah)

Clarksdale is the place

It's the place that we from

And no matter what you do,

It's the place that we from (yeah)

[Shot of K-Deezy in outdoor interview] [Music continues in background]

K-Deezy: It's like a lot of covered-up racist stuff goin' on right now, not a lot of in-your-face type racist things.

[Shot of K-Deezy with group, rapping]

K-Deezy: It's a small town

With big city problems, lotta shit goin' down

Police can't solve them

Man, it's real bad

Shit really gully

And if you want to talk about it, shit real ugly

[Shots of kids playing, families together, souped-up cars, TopNotch and Buggs joking together]

K-Deezy [V/O]: But at the same time, we take that Clarks Vegas name and we just we make it as a fun place for us to get away from all that and everybody know everybody around here pretty much, so. At nighttime, it's a different town, it's Mississippi, but we got clubs we got bars, everybody got cars where they ride and have a little showcase, just like any other place. And we just let 'em all know with that name. [38]

[Shot of group continuing to rap and sing about Clarks Vegas in living room]

Da F.A.M.: Clarks Vegas is the place, it's the place that we from

And no matter what we do, it's the place that we from. (music fades).

[Fade in church incantation music][39]

[Shots of Deacon and choir members singing incantation in First Oak Grove Church in Crowder, Mississippi] [40]

Congregation (singing, slowly): I am a child of God. I am a child of God.

Deacon #1 (singing): I said I love the Lord.

[Shot of TopNotch in church pew singing to incantation]

Congregation (singing): I am a child of God.

TopNotch [V/O]: And I do believe that Jesus died for our sins or what have you. [On Camera: Indoor interview] He died on the cross and yes, he resurrected, you know, I believe in all of that.

[Shot of second Deacon, chanting the Our Father]

Deacon #2: ?heavenly father. And allow you to have your way with us. We sinners, have mercy on us. Don't let 'em be ashamed of the way that you are []. Don't let 'em be afraid? [41]

TopNotch [V/O]: I mean, I don't stand on no pulpit and I don't have no Sunday service or what have you. [On camera: Indoor interview] But nevertheless, I still have, you know, I still have that artist, you know, that believe in what they believe in.

[Shot of First Oak Grove Pastor Reverend Allen Johnson preaching into a microphone]

Reverend Johnson: ?You gotta live and walk in the word. It doesn't matter what the drug addicts say. It doesn't matter what the pimps say. You gotta live in the word. Because the word will. Keep you?.[42]

TopNotch [V/O]: My Sunday morning is every single day when I choose to freestyle, or every single minute.

[Shot of Miss Martha Raybon leading the First Oak Grove choir] [Music: Choir singing "He's a Battleaxe"]

Choir: He's a battleaxe in the time of war

He's a battleaxe in the time of war

He's a battleaxe in the time of war

He's our shelter in the time of war

TopNotch [V/O]: I sung in the choir. You know, Miss Martha was backin' me up, makin' sure that everything was okay. You know, we got a good response, you know, and as they say down here in Mississippi, we had some church. [Close shot of TopNotch talking on camera] We had some church on Sunday.

[Shot of TopNotch sitting with Miss Martha Raybon in her modest, cozy home in Crowder, Mississippi. In some of these shots, her grandchildren sit on her lap]

TopNotch (To Miss Martha Raybon): Troubles of the world. That's my favorite of all time. There's rap, there's R and B, hip-hop, rock, whatever, but gospel?

Miss Martha Raybon: "Soon I will be Done?"

TopNotch: "Soon I will be Done." [43]

Miss Martha Raybon (singing): Soon I will be done with the troubles of this world

Troubles of the world

Troubles of the world

Troubles of this world

Troubles of this world [V/O: Shots of Miss Martha worshipping in First Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church]

Soon I will be done with the troubles of this world

I'm goin' home to live with God.

I'm goin' home to live with my God. [44]

Miss Martha: [V/O shots of Miss Martha My name is Martha Raybon, I am from Crowder Mississippi. I met Jerome at church. I was choir directing. When young ones come along and whoever wanted to be in the choir, then I would work with them. And, see, just like with Jerome, and the group that I had when he was there. They were eager, and they really wanted to learn, and we would get right in this little trailer. And I remember [V/O: shots of the church choir] they were so eager, they come every day wanting to have rehearsal. Whether they knew it or not, there were people on the outside listening to them. During that time. [45] [V/O: Shots of a Delta church at sunset, local streams and fields, etc.]

Back then, they would use songs just like, uh, "There's Gonna be a Meeting at the Old Campground" letting the slaves know where they were gonna have a meeting that night for church.

"Wade in the Water" would tell them where to wade to to go to the Underground Railroad to escape slavery. So it was used them for a mode of communicating for them to tell where to go, where there would be a meeting for church. Because a lot of them, they were not allowed to have church, so they would have to slip and have church, and when they got ready to go away to freedom, they would have to know which direction to meet up at. So those songs would pass, or as they say, "start in one cotton field and run across to the other one" so that everybody would know where to go, where to meet up at. [46]

[On camera with grandchildren] When the Holy Spirit take over, ooh, you have?you're just out of control. You don't know? you know, ooh. The singin'. And a lot of people will tell you, the power that go with you singin' that song. And how it made them feel and how it makes you feel. [V/O: Shots of Miss Martha in church] It makes you feel, a lot of times, that'll just make you forget all cares, all worries, all everything.

Miss Martha: [On camera](singing) There are mountains in my life

So hard to climb

But I promise

I'll keep climbin'

If you'll only? [Music continues under footage of Kimyata Dear speaking]

Kimyata Dear: [On camera, medium shot in her backyard] Like when you rappin', you just let yourself, let yourself go. Same thing like people do in church. When you feel a song, you just let yourself go. And usually when you do that you rap better or sing better because you just rappin' or you singin' from your soul, which really just lift up everything, and it just comes out better result than not feeling your song and just rapping to be rappin'. [47]

[V/O: Miss Martha's singing continues]

Big T [Medium shot with his bass guitar on his lap]: Music can make me happy, music can make me sad, music can make me?wonder. You know. It's all about the music and what it gives you back.

Kevon Jurden [Shot of Kevon and his two friends outside]: I wanna change the world and how people act and what they do, and like, if I make it, my raps ain't gonna be about drugs and killin'. My raps gonna be about God, and what people need to start doin' and what they need to stop doin'.

Miss Martha [On camera]: (singing) ?I am willing

Lord, to run home,

All, all the way [Shakes her head]

TopNotch: [On camera, extreme close-up] Now in my raps or what have you, how the way it transcends, or how the way I catch this Holy Spirit or what have you, is that I catch this, I just keep rappin, and the more I start makin' sense and the more you begin to feel it, the more crunk, you know what I'm sayin', you get, you know what I'm sayin' or what have you. [Sounds of TopNotch rapping fade up]

[Shot of TopNotch standing in a cotton field, rapping]

TopNotch: [48]

But they burnin' with me

Best believe they gon' live through me

Cause I can bring 'em back to my memories

I cried tears you best uh believe

Thatta I would love to fight for here

I got my right through here

I put my stripes through here

Now let me take you back before the days

When there were just some nickel and some quarters

Knowin' that good and well

It couldn't support families and daughters

I know, understand, it taught us

They didn't want to see us read and write

but that's okay we gon' read

and I'm gonna tell you what life was like'

hard streetin'

I'm thinkin' that it's all completed

I don't wanna see my sentence not completed

I add a period to the life that I live and be

You wanna feel the cotton choppin' through me

It's more than T-O-P it's more than whatever you cry

It's gon' be whatever these tears that up in my eyes

I had too many f'ckin' family members that dead and died

Try pressin' through knowing that they been crucified

Livin' my life

I live this life sworn of the sword they never like see me

So now I got to bring you some more

Giving me more I give you my strength every day

It just lookin up into the sky and the lord I pray

Just hopin' that you live your life through my babies

Cryin' me baby maybe

Isn't and maybes

[Closer shot of TopNotch in t6he same scene] Now I see uncle and uh uncle Jed

Seein' these people and they lookin'

All over their head

Nappy head and they seeing some roots

Stanky still getting booted

But they gettin' burned by the sweat it's pollutin'

And I know they came up with solutions

But just the fact that they didn't have the means or the materials to do it

Some of em

They tried to break free

And only thing they saw

Was a foot cut off like Baby T

Now you wanna look for Kunta Kinte

I got words that'll make you say like

Ooh, it won't be okay

I don't spread my butter with no Parkay

It's all day when I say they all grey

You won't wanna see the real truth?

I got your real truth

Aunt Jemima

Sally Sue

Now Joseph let me speak my life you HOVA

You wanna take me out now that I know-uh that it's over

My troubles of the world it will be done?.(fades out)

TopNotch [On Camera in interview]: The more live, the more, you know the energy start a-flowin', and it's like, for me it comes like from my toes and it goes into my feet and it goes like to my ankles, and it goes to my shin to my calf to my knees to my thighs to my hips to my waist belly to my heart to my chest to my throat to my brain. And then once it gets to the point where you can't hold it in your body no more, it just all comes out in one big ol' blur and it's just beautiful music.

[Fade to black][Credits flash]

[Sound: First Oak Congregation singing incantation]

[Fade into pan of cotton field at sunset]


Directed by:

Brian Graves

Ali Colleen Neff

Jerome "Top Notch the Villain" Williams

Based on Ethnography by:

Ali Colleen Neff

Director of Photography:

Brian Graves

In Order of Appearance:

Jerome "Top Notch the Villain" Williams

Friends and neighbors in the Brickyard

Derrick Jurden

Mario Haygen

Kevon Jurden

Taurus Metcalf

Jeweline Williams

Terry "Big T" Williams

Mr. Tater the Music Maker

Keithan "K-Deezy" Dear

Timothy "Small Tyme" Williams

Kimyata "Yata" Dear

Anthony "Buggs Diego" Buggs, Jr.

The Staff and customers of Lan-Lan's Barbershop

Blunt, Vanessa and their Dad

Bobbi Collins

The Congregation of First Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church

Reverend Allen Johnson

Martha Raybon

Special Thanks to:

The Shack-Up Inn Family

The Friends and Family of Terry "Big T" Williams

Ken Hillis

Mark Robinson

The Raybon family

Da Fam

Additional Photography by:

Tim Gordon

On-Site Support:

Rosa Castaneda

Advisor: William R. Ferris

Made possible through a grant from the Center for the Study of the American South

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

And the UNC Department of Communication Studies