Anyone who has been paying attention to the media lately has surely noticed the rise (and success) of the rock biopic. Bohemian Rhapsody fueled the fire first, making it clear that Queen could once again capture the world’s attention. Its soundtrack gained a spot on Billboard’s chart, and the band briefly became Spotify’s #1 artist. The Dirt, released on Netflix this past March, threw Mötley Crüe back into the spotlight, and became the highest audience-rated film on Rotten Tomatoes. This summer brings two films projected to continue the trend: Rocketman, a glance into Elton John’s fantastical life, and Yesterday, a movie musical about a world without the Beatles. A David Bowie flick is also in the making, and pieces about Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield, and more are set to follow.

Despite the success of these movies, critics and film buffs continue to find dramatic flaws. Even with band members serving as overseers and executive producers on the film sets, the biopics aren’t always accurate. As brought up on the Rolling Stone “Music Now” podcast, the ability for artists to cater their story how they see fit leads to altered plotlines and information. These films are viewed solely as money-grabbers. The soundtracks are supposedly the appeal that brings people to the theaters, and then onto record stores and online music platforms. The backlash against Bohemian Rhapsody’s numerus Oscar nominations (and wins) showcased that nostalgia has more cinematic value than anything else.

As a music lover, my view is a bit biased. However, there is something more to these biopics that we may be overlooking. A new wave of kids are discovering rock n’ roll for the first time, and that striking moment is multi-generational. To the oldtimers who grew up with these bands, it’s a trip back to the golden days of their own youth. To the newcomers who are just now discovering it for themselves, it’s a welcome into that world as well. My parents are responsible for my own romance with rock. Watching these movies with them became a bonding experience. It led to hearing about my mom’s days of following Neil Young and trying to decipher Elton John’s obscure album covers back in the 70’s. The biopic allows everybody to have their moment with music. They are about sharing a story with people who are willing to indulge. They are about making all ages feel like they have somewhere to come home to.

These films also channel the passion that brought these artists to their craft in the first place. The heart lies within the soundtracks that critics so quickly pin as the only positive aspect, and in the repetitive band-breakup-reunion scenes they were so quick to judge. After watching The Dirt, all I wanted to do was drop out of school and start playing bass full time. While sitting in a movie theater, surrounded by my parents and other moviegoers getting emotional over the CGI recreation of Live Aid in Bohemian Rhapsody, it felt as if I was transported to that very concert forty years ago. Those kinds of visceral reactions do not just come from anywhere. It’s what rock is supposed to make you feel. It’s what rock has made me feel. A real life concert can never compare to something on screen, yet these films come eerily close. The emotion and pure joy one gets at when they see a band or artist they love live is still there; the biopics make sure of that.

While the facts and figures of these films may not always be up to par, the emotional appeal pulls through in a way that preserves what it’s all about. Underneath all the makeup and fake mullets is the raw passion of rock n’ roll in the first place. These biopics are about the musicians who gave their whole lives to music. They are about the rush of being at a show, and of being one with a crowd. They are about the undying love for a song, album, and artist that hurts; no matter how old you are. The nostalgia and monetary gain of biopics are sure to be continually criticized. However, it is keeping this music—and the spirit of rock n’ roll— alive for countless generations of fans to come.

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Illustration by Sarah Howland

MF DOOM is the rap game’s most mysterious figure.  Blessed with a soft, deep voice and an uncommon lyrical fidelity, his songs range from hypnotizing tales of comic book villainy to catchy hooks about rap’s snitches. In an era of rap music that continuously churns out look-alikes all rapping over the same beat, DOOM is a different creature. His discography is packed with successful solo projects and collaborations that have created a massive, global fanbase. I will be listening to MF DOOM tracks on repeat for an incredibly long time, if not forever, and while I still have love for his greatest music, he has failed to release music this decade that is up to the standards of his hit songs. On the heels of the fifteenth anniversary of his most popular album Madvillainy, I was curious to investigate what makes MF DOOM’s music so captivating, and why his career has taken a downturn over the past decade.  

Fifteen years after the album's initial release, Madvillainy feels more musically relevant than ever. In the age of streaming, where music is more accessible and replayability is more valuable, Madvillainy was built for this moment. On this project, DOOM collaborated with Madlib, a producer and musician who has forged his own career with solo projects and collaborative ventures, including a Jazz inspired hip-hop band named Yesterday’s New Quintet, which is entirely orchestrated by Madlib. MF DOOM and Madlib compliment each other perfectly, as Madlib was given creative liberties to be more extreme than ever with samples, flexing his beat making muscles. Some tracks on the album are entirely dedicated to mixes Madlib made devoid of DOOM.

I desperately crave the old MF DOOM to come back to life and deliver solid music again. Madlib and MF DOOM’s relationship was dug into recently by Will Gottsegen of Spin Magazine, who got the chance to interview MF DOOM on Madvillainy’s 15th anniversary. In the interview, DOOM (needing to be reminded it was the 15th anniversary) references the house they were staying at in L.A. and the “bomb shelter” basement where all the recordings were done. The pair had a routine of Madlib creating the beats, often dozens more than needed, and DOOM picking the best ones and writing the songs over them. This process was repeated and perfected by the duo, manifesting in the best work between both of their careers. My main question for Will is; what happened to DOOM’s career?

From Will’s perspective it can be seen as a good thing that DOOM claims to have recreated the artistic process with Madlib, commenting, "it definitely has a chance to be as good as the original Madvillainy." The reasons to be excited for music down the line could be there. But, DOOM’s seriousness about releasing music puts a hindrance on any true optimism. On one hand, it is hard not to get excited by DOOM’s claim that he and Madlib have unreleased music; on the other hand DOOM has said this before and there are still no signs we are getting music any time soon from the pair. The blip in the heart rate reverts back to standard levels, and we re-enter purgatory.

To make sense of why DOOM’s career has taken a downturn, I found three major components that have lead to his downfall. To start, his rapping hasn’t changed much but the slower, methodical rhymes we hear on Madvillainy are sped up. This has worked for DOOM before, except when he’s producing his own tracks like on his last cancelled project The Missing Notebook Rhymes he attempts to use his same lyrical style for when he’s slow when he’s spitting faster raps. It ends up sounding less natural, and less DOOM-like. DOOM likes to buck the typical rhyming schemes most rappers use, like a set-up, punchline. DOOM often skips the punchline from a set-up line to reference something else entirely, and begins rhyming patterns with the newfound word. He tries to continue to do this in his new music, but it often falls flat. Second, he hasn’t worked with Madlib since Madvillainy. That relationship has worked so well for the two, and while DOOM claims there is music on the way, we haven’t heard anything. Finally, his choices on who he has been collaborating with have been difficult to understand. DOOM has worked with some of the best in the music industry, and over the past few years, he has made music with less experienced artists like Bishop Nehru, leading to a sub-par albums. DOOM needs to realize the collaborators he chooses to work with have a massive impact on the success of the music, and when he works with more experienced artists, they help guide his rapping.

Fans aren’t owed anything from DOOM, but while he is still around, it would be nice if he came out with another project with the producer who helped him reach the peak of his abilities. It is difficult to reach the ultimate heights of success without greatness around you. For every superstar like LeBron James or MF DOOM, they need greatness to surround them like Dwyane Wade and Madlib. As of this moment, we don’t know when the next MF DOOM project will come out. What evidence we have collected is all we can cling on to, and I hope one day we have a new project on our hands, whether it is a sequel to Madvillainy, or an entirely different project itself. The mixture of DOOM and Madlib is so special, they owe it to the universe to deliver more music.

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Image by Valentina Ramirez-Cruz

Brooklyn 99 is a sitcom about NYPD detectives who tackle professional and personal dilemmas through the seamless bridging of both comical and serious moments. By veering away from the traditional notions of the police force and instead showing the officers in a fresh and humorous light, the show is able to discuss important themes such as racism and gender in a way that is accessible for all audiences.


The humor is rooted in the characters themselves, with each personality being used to convey different perspectives. From Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg), a confident and goofy but well-skilled detective, to Rosa Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz), a mysterious tough-cookie, the show offers a wide range of character-types. Comic relief is also provided through the characters Scully and Hitchcock (Joel McKinnon Miller and Dirk Blocker, respectively), two old, lazy detectives who make attempts to be hip with the younger officers.


Though the show packs in the humor, it also makes sure to cover important topics in an honest and realistic way. In the episode “Game Night,” Rosa comes out to her conservative parents as bisexual. Throughout the episode, Jake is by her side with the occasional comedic comment. In one family dinner scene, Rosa asks Jake to pretend to be her boyfriend as she doesn't feel ready to come out yet. Jake agrees, but tells her to keep her hands off his butt as the, “Jake Peralta boyfriend experience can be quite intoxicating.” In her low, deadpan voice, Rosa informs him that that won’t be a problem, and make sures to remind him that he just sat on a meatball. Later in the episode, when Rosa does come out to her parents, Jake reassures her, saying, “It was great. And don't worry, just because you opened up a little bit doesn't mean everyone's gonna be less afraid of you. We're all still terrified.”


These sprinkles of comedy amidst tough and tense situations brings some lightheartedness to the concrete struggles that the LGBTQ+ community faces, such as resorting to denying their identity and fearing vulnerability. Brooklyn 99 is still able to highlight that, despite the humor, these issues are real and valid.  


Another episode, “Moo Moo,” depicts Sergeant Terry Jeffords (Terry Crews), a black man, being stopped and arrested by a police officer for walking on his own street. The episode discusses the many facets of racism that exist, from the suppression of talking about injustices that occur in the professional world, to the intricacies of explaining racial profiling to children.  

As usual, after Terry explains what happened to him, the team offers their sympathy. “So what are you going to do? Slash his tires?”  The ever-intimidating Rosa comments, “You shouldn’t do that, but just out of curiosity, what kind of car does he drive and where does he park it?”


In the midst of this tense moment, Scully naively chimes in that he has no idea what is going on, to which Hitchcock replies, “He got stopped for being black! Get woke, Scully.” This use of casual teenage slang was used to keep the side remark light-hearted.  


These two episodes hint at Brooklyn 99’s use of characters to provide relief when discussing heavier topics. They stray away from being too politically charged by presenting the issue at hand without directly enforcing an agenda.


However, Brooklyn 99 is not without fault. From subtle things like using the term ‘prostitute’ rather than ‘sex worker,’ to broader issues such as the sexualization of the male characters, some could say that the show has had its own share of problematic moments. Gina Linetti (Chelsea Peretti), an overconfident and often arrogant character, often sexualizes Terry by telling him to take his shirt off or hitting on him throughout different episodes. The overall situation can come off as workplace harassment. Brooklyn 99 has, however, phased this gimmick out in recent seasons, possibly due to the producers realization of the message it sends.


No show is perfect, but the positive direction that Brooklyn 99 takes in constantly trying to improve is more than other sitcoms attempt to make. Through humor, Brooklyn 99 is able to discuss social issues and sensitive topics, proving to be an essential show in today’s world. At the very least, it serves as an example of how entertainment can be used to discuss important social issues.

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Image by Aliza Pelto

New York’s transit system is its lifeblood. Millions of residents use it for work, school, shopping, eating, social functions, and countless other reasons. But disabled people, who, according to the 2018 AccessibleNYC Report, make up about 11.2% of the city’s population, are often abandoned by the MTA, left with inadequate services and inaccessible transit options, and limited in a way that able-bodied people have the privilege of ignoring. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Cade Smith, a queer, disabled Art Education major and self-described “punk-ass 21-year-old,” about their experiences navigating the city’s transit system, their activism, and the concept of “public space.”

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 established disabled persons as a protected class, and was further amended in 2008 to broaden the scope of what constituted “disability” to become relatively inclusive. The act finds that “physical or mental disabilities in no way diminish a person’s right to fully participate in all aspects of society.” In an attempt to combat historical oppression, it provides accessibility requirements for public spaces—according to Cade, it’s “the bare fucking minimum” (one only has to look at our lovely Pratt campus to see this).

Over the course of our conversation, I identified a common theme of “taking up space,” and the social pressures enacted upon a disabled body when it attempts to the exist in the “space” it needs. Cade uses a walker or cane to get around; they prefer the walker, but, on the subway, that’s often more trouble than it’s worth. “Sometimes it’s better to feel physically worse,” they say, than to disrupt too much space with their walker. They just put their headphones in, close their eyes, and try to ignore the subway train full of people glaring at them.

“As a disabled person,” Cade continues, “you essentially have to demean yourself to get where you’re going.” They’re more likely to get a seat on the bus than on the subway, and usually they have to ask for either. With only their cane, sometimes people don’t even believe Cade deserves to sit. “I have to weigh the fact that I present as a young white man with the fact that I’m disabled and fat,” they add, further complicating matters. Who gets to take up space?

Things aren’t always so bleak. Currently, approximately 25% of stations have elevators, but Cade is participating in a new MTA initiative called Fast Forward, and has attended public hearings on the topic. At one such hearing, led by Alex Elegudin, the MTA’s Senior Advisor for Systemwide Accessibility, the participants discussed a plan to provide elevators for at least 50 more stations within five years. The goal is for no one to be more than two stops from an accessible station. What impressed Cade most was the way disabled members of the public took up space at the meeting—Elegudin himself is a wheelchair user, and ASL interpreters and real-time transcription were provided, for example.

The meeting focused on identifying stations most in need of accessibility. Targets included stations close to public resources, like hospitals and cultural institutions, and areas with a higher population of disabled people. “If we must choose,” Cade says, “we have to be pragmatic about it.” While this program is exciting, and more than the MTA has ever done before, it was determined that residents could still end up almost 40 blocks away from the nearest accessible station, which might require disabled people to purchase another bus ticket or set them at risk of fatigue.

We must focus on continuing to advocate for an accessible public transit system. Attending and testifying at MTA open meetings, participating in protests and public demonstrations, and using your privilege to support those in need can all help to increase awareness of this issue, as well as increase social pressure to radically change our environment. We need a city where 'public' space actually serves the needs of the public. When one portion of the population is oppressed, the entire population suffers the consequences.

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Image by Aaron Cohen

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