By now you've probably formed an opinion about Django Unchained, the controversial new Quentin Tarantino film starring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson, and Leonardo DiCaprio. But don't let that stop you from diving into Karina Longworth's excellent Phoenix New Times cover story this week, which features the writer/director himself talking about the flick in his characteristically loose style.
Like all of Tarantino's films, the musical score is a hodgepodge of styles and sounds. Featuring spaghetti western sounds from Ennio Morricone alongside hip-hop from Rick Ross, high-lonesome country from Brother Dege, and soul from John Legend and James Brown, it's a fantastic listen.
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Longwroth writes: "The choice of music apparently reflects the way [Scarface], a flop on its release, was reclaimed as a cult object by hip-hop culture. You could read this as an act of fandom -- a wishful, YouTube-mash-up-style homage born out of Tarantino's obsessive study of prints in his home theater and his sessions of writing to a soundtrack of mixtapes out on the balcony of his mansion."
But one song you won't hear is Frank Ocean's "Wiseman." Fresh off a mighty triumphant 2012, Ocean was commissioned to create a track for the film, but Tarantino decided against using it. The director states:
"Frank Ocean wrote a fantastic ballad that was truly lovely and poetic in every way. There just wasn't a scene for it. I could have thrown it in quickly just to have it, but that's not why he wrote it and not his intention. So I didn't want to cheapen his effort. But, the song is fantastic, and when Frank decides to unleash it on the public, they'll realize it then."
Ocean took to his Tumblr page and offered the song up for free, like he did with his breakout mixtape Nostalgia/Ultra (uncleared Eagles samples be damned). Clearly harboring no bad blood, he states that "Django was ill without it."
It's easy to see where Tarantino is coming from -- as Longworth points out, "Django himself is like white, ultra-conservative America's worst nightmare of the Angry Black Man, a cartoon symbol of the brown people they've treated like chattel rising up in revenge." Ocean's song, on the other hand, opts out of any cartoonishness, tapping into the same wounded, aching vein as channel ORANGE standouts "Thinking Bout You" and "Bad Religion," with a Proverbs/Psalms tone to his quavering lyrics.
Over a distorted, reverberating guitar, Ocean sings "The beasts will crawl this earth/then fall in the dirt/to feed the crows/they'll rip apart his flesh/till all that's left is glorious bone." The strings sweep in, and Ocean's vocals rise as he eases into his perfect falsetto: "I bet your mother would be proud of you."
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The song establishes his ever-growing prowess as a storyteller and artist. Unleashed; realized.