Spit Gold Under An Empire

A Bespoke Edit of Emily Kai Bock's Cutting-Edge Documentary on NYC’s Rap Underground

Mykki Blanco, Angel Haze and C.J. Fly hold forth in this exclusive edit of filmmaker Emily Kai Bock’s new documentary on New York’s underground rap scene, Spit Gold Under An Empire. “So many people there are really pushing the form,” she says of the city's hip-hop avant-garde. “It’s the most interesting and authentic thing going on.” Filmed largely in Brooklyn, the movement’s epicenter provided its own backbeat. “When you’re there, you can hear people in the apartments above and below you, people yelling on the street and car radios going by—it’s like a backing track, and if you’re raised there, it’s in your blood,” says Bock, a rising Montreal-based director with a fine art background who hit the ground running on the music scene with her stunning video for Grimes’ “Oblivion,” which became an overnight sensation. Produced by Somesuch & Co. and set to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival this week alongside efforts from independent directors Abteen Bagheri, Bob Harlow and Tyrone Lebon, the short is part of a series exploring the musical lives of American cities including the New Orleans bounce craze, shoegaze in Portland and Detroit’s warehouse scene.

Click here to view Spit Gold Under an Empire in full, alongside other works in the New American Noise documentary project, from January 19.

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Conversations (2)

  • Skyler Summer
    What is the song played right at the beginning called?
    • Posted By Skyler Summer
    • January 16, 2013 at 8:20AM
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  • Roux
    Awesome! I'm glad underground is making its resurgence in modern hiphop.
    • Posted By Roux
    • January 16, 2013 at 4:01AM
    • Share Comment:

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    Larry Clark: Marfa Girl

    The Hardcore Vision Behind the Cult Director's First Digital Release

    The ever-provocative photographer and filmmaker Larry Clark delves into the making of Marfa Girl, his first feature in seven years and the winner of the Marco Aurelio Award for Best Film at the Rome Film Festival, in today’s video by NOWNESS regular Matt Black. Set in the eponymous Texas desert town, the new work focuses on the culture clash arising from the area’s mix of Mexican Americans, ranchers, border patrol police and a creative scene founded by minimalist artist Donald Judd, who moved there in the 1970s. Starring a cast of mostly non-actors, Clark’s latest film returns to his signature themes of adolescent sexuality, the dark side of American youth and its unseen subcultures. The 69-year-old maverick achieved notoriety with his seminal 1971 black-and-white monograph Tulsa. His raw, intimate debut feature Kids – the controversial tale of a handful of nihilistic New York skaters – shot him to international fame in 1995, simultaneously launching the careers of Chloë Sevigny, Harmony Korine, Leo Fitzpatrick and Rosario Dawson. “He has a very authentic way of documenting sexual freedom, drug abuse and darkness,” says Black, Clark’s Tribeca neighbor. “When you pick up fashion magazines today, so much of the editorial is done in Larry’s street style. His visual codes are part of our language now.” While Clark’s documentary aesthetic has inspired generations of artists and filmmakers, in Hollywood he remains an outsider. Ratings and censorship led him to the decision to bypass distributors completely this time, making Marfa Girl available exclusively to watch online via his website larryclark.com. “Larry’s in a special position,” says Black. “He’s hugely respected in the fashion industry, the art industry and by young people. Heavyweight artists like Richard Prince and Christopher Wool love him. He can put this film online and everyone will want to see it—whether they like him or not.”

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    WIZ: Strait Street

    The Acclaimed Filmmaker Uncovers Malta’s Bawdy Past in a New Video for Dark Horses

    Vintage footage of sailors and the pleasures of the Maltese harbor punctuate this premiere from British director WIZ, who follows local performer Ira Melkonyan as she wanders hypnotized through the shadows of a rundown palazzo in Valetta’s Old Town, towards the sounds of the Brighton-based art rockers Dark Horses. With a music videography including shorts for David Bowie, Dizzee Rascal and Marilyn Manson, WIZ himself sets the scene for his latest work in a prose poem written to accompany “Anna Minor”, a track from Black Music, the band’s debut album: "Strait Street, known to British servicemen as ‘the Gut’, was Malta’s notorious red light district up until the early 1970s. A choice destination for drunken sailors when the street sprung into life in the long hours of darkness— barmaids would lean on doorways touting for business, musicians, entertainers and prostitutes would spill from every bar." This summer, Dark Horses was invited to perform and record in Malta and the studio space where they found themselves was high up on the infamous row. A close friend of the band, WIZ mixed their menacing guitars with voiceover recollections from a Maltese transvestite who used to work the strip, meshed with the sordid sounds of the world’s oldest profession. “An orgasm is one of the most intense experiences,” he says, reflecting on Dark Horses frontwoman Lisa Elle’s vocal climax, captured on stage at the Valetta venue Floriana Ditch. “There must be some kind of residue here, the amount of sex that was going on over a hundred years. Perhaps Dark Horses’ music somehow activated the sensations from the past.”
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