A Brief Analysis of Dave Chappelle’s ‘Redemption Song’
Ever since his epic return to stand up comedy after leaving the Chappelle’s Show back in 2005, it seems Dave Chappelle has been fighting endlessly to redeem himself and his career, while righting the wrongs that would have destroyed just about any other famous person. His latest attempt at redemption is his crusade to end Chappelle’s Show, which was still owned by Comedy Central and being streamed on various services such as Netflix and HBOMax. He released a video titled ‘Unforgiven‘ in which he pleads to his fans to stop watching the show to help him take back the power he once had over it. And just a few days ago, he released a video titled ‘Redemption Song’ which is the conclusion to this chapter of his story that would make any fan proud.
The Wisdom of Dave Chappelle
Dave Chappelle’s name has a tendency to come in and out of the news, rarely, if ever, for anything bad or scandalous. So it was a bit of a shock when it was reported a few weeks ago that Chappelle had caught Covid-19. He opens the video with this statement – “When a hero stumbles, cowards rejoice” and he goes on to talk about how a small group of haters came out of the woodwork to dance for joy at the news.
For anyone at his level of fame this type of behavior is expected, but really anyone can relate to it. Have you ever gotten to a point in your life where you were ready to make a change, a point where you realized you weren’t where you wanted to be and that something had to give. You become obsessed with trying to better yourself and your situation, and in doing so, you begin to radiate a certain type of energy, positive vibrations. You become so addicted to the feeling of redemption that it becomes all you talk about. But there’s always that one friend that has to naysay, try to knock you down a peg for what seems like no reason.
This kind of thing is what I think Chappelle was talking about. When Dave refers to himself as “a hero” it’s not some cocky sentiment he has about himself and his career, it’s more so that you should ALWAYS be the hero to your own story. If you don’t believe you are the hero, than who would? And if you aren’t the hero to your story, than chances are you are just another antagonist, and no good story can go on without a protagonist.
That jealousy and envy that is at the core of reaction from haters isn’t something to be afraid of or hide from. If anything, it’s something to take ownership of. The truth is that if you don’t have haters, than you’re not doing it right. When you are on top of your game those that can’t do what you do or aren’t willing and able to put in the hard work will hate you for it.
Islam and the Capitol Riots
Chappelle then goes on in ‘Redemption Song’ to talk about the recent capitol riots and how it relates to his experience as a Muslim in America. During the presidency of George W. Bush, his ‘War on Terror’ was instrumental in painting a grim picture for the American psyche of immigrants from the middle east and those that identify as Muslim. Charged words like “evil doers” and repeated tales of extremist brown people that hate America with a passion were used to paint a picture of what this new enemy of the people looked like, and to this day the shamelessly racist nature of the program still has harsh ramifications.
Chappelle touches on the story of Edward Snowden who was a whistleblower that released secret NSA programs that allowed them to spy on American’s, most notably anyone that could be considered as “problematic”. He uses this to draw a parallel to the people that stormed the Capitol building in Washington recently, by pointing out the utter hypocrisy of these people claiming to protest for a better America, but shunning those that protest ideas counter to theirs (such as Colin Kaepernick) and even proceeded to beat a police officer with an American flag during the riots.
The bigger picture is that while this country has gone out of its way to demonize minorities, immigrants, and certain religious beliefs, all the while the “enemy of the people”, the true threat to American democracy and everything it stands for has been here all along, growing and thriving under a shield of white privilege.
Again, a New Perspective
Dave Chappelle, in my opinion, is easily one of the greatest comedians to ever do it, and works like ‘Redemption Song’ will one day reinforce this idea. I have the utmost respect for him to be able to use his platform, his fame and influence as a stage to push critical social and political commentary.
Much like ‘Unforgiven’, Chappelle’s delivery in ‘Redemption Song’ is powerful. He drives home ever point and statement he doesn’t want you to get with such force and emphasis. It feels as though he isn’t just talking to an audience, but he is speaking to you personally. But most of all, he seems genuine and heartfelt in his words. It all seems to come from a place of pain from watching such horrible things happen to his fellow man here in America.
He closes ‘Redemption Song’ by revealing that Comedy Central officially reached out and gave him back the rights to Chappelle’s Show. He brilliantly somehow manages to tie all of these seemingly random subjects together to make a broader point, while always relating it back to his own experience.
As a long time fan and admirer of his work, I’m extremely happy that he got his show back and that this chapter of his story has FINALLY come to a close. Most of all I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him and his career.