Theme Song To "Do The Right Thing"
It's been about twenty-seven years since the release of Do The Right Thing, Spike Lee's award winning, scathing examination of race relations in America, which is just as relevant today as it was in 1989.
The film, which was written, directed, and starred Spike Lee, and also featured appearances from Rosie Perez, Danny Aiello, Martin Lawrence, and Samuel L. Jackson, was released in 1989 to critical acclaim and an unprecedented amount of controversy. Set in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, the film offered an unflinching, honest look at the ingrained racism inherent in American culture.
Lee asked Public Enemy to compose the theme of the movie, "Fight the Power," which just like the film, tackles America's long history of racism with harsh honesty. The song is heard multiple times throughout the movie, and the song's complex, sample heavy production and brutally truthful lyrics mirror the feelings of palpable, growing tension and explosive outrage that characterizes the film. The song would go on to become one of Public Enemy's biggest hits, and would become the anthem of civil disobedience for a new generation of political activists and socially conscious artists.
In the movie, "Fight the Power" is most closely associated with Radio Raheem, a resident of Bedford-Stuy who is known for always carrying his boombox with him. Raheem is murdered by the police at the climax of the film, which causes the mostly black neighborhood to vent their frustrations with the police (and American society's hundreds of years of institutionalized racism,) on a white owned pizzeria in the neighborhood.
According to Lee, black audiences empathized with Raheem and related to the frustrations and outrage of the people of Bedford-Stuy, while many white audiences were more worried about the damage to white-owned property, a response that only served to reinforce the themes of the movie.
Do The Right Thing was referenced frequently in criticisms of how the media covered the 2015 death of Freddie Gray, who allegedly died as the result of police abuse, and the ensuing riots in Baltimore. The media was accused of spending more time focusing on the looting and destruction of a CVS Pharmacy than they did covering the death of the young man that sparked the protests in the first place, causing some to draw comparisons to Radio Raheem and the events of Do The Right Thing.
Do The Right Thing and "Fight the Power" are still just as relevant today as they were when they were first released twenty-seven years ago. While part of their lasting appeal is undoubtedly due to the level of craft and talent that went into their respective productions, a large part of their continued relevance is also due to the unfortunate fact that the oppression and racism that Spike Lee and Public Enemy rallied against in 1989 is still just as prevalent in 2016.
By Michael Lacerna for RAPstation.com