Chicago musician Chance the Rapper wants it to be known the city is against Spike Lee’s new film, Chi-Raq.
In a series of tweets posted Friday, the 22-year-old rapper called the film “exploitive and problematic” and noted that Chicagoans are “not supporting” Chi-Raq as it arrives in theaters.
Lee’s film is a retelling of the Greek comedy Lysistrata, a play about wives abstaining from sex to encourage their husbands to call for peace. (In the film, a woman named Lysistrata organizes a similar strike with the women of Chicago, and later around the world.) After the trailer first appeared, Chi-Raq was criticized by many, including Chicago rapper Rhymefest.
“The overwhelming majority of people on the South and West Side believe this is foolishness,” he said, before also adding that “using sex as a tool or a weapon to end violence is any type of sustainable solution even within satire.”
In response to the backlash, Lee released a second trailer and assured viewers that Chi-Raq was not “making light of the lives who have been murdered.”
“There’s a difference between humor and comedy,” Lee said. “In no way, shape or form are we not respectful of the situation that’s happening in Chi-Raq.” He added, “There’s an old statement: ‘I have to laugh to keep from crying.’ I think that’s apropos with Chi-Raq.”
At the film’s New York premiere this week, Lee was praised by Rev. Al Sharpton for making Chi-Raq, and shining a light on the gun violence in Chicago and around the country.
“Let me say this: A lot of people always cause controversy when Spike comes out with something, and then you know it’s right,” Sharpton said. “Martin Luther King said you don’t judge the character of a man by where he stands in the hours of convenience but where he stands in the hour of controversy.” Sharpton said he felt Chi-Raq would “bring a discussion that will save lives.”
Chi-Raq is out in limited release now, and will be available for streaming via Amazon Prime in the near future.