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What Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Has To Say On 'La La Land' Whitewashing of Jazz

One of these things is not like the other

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a big fan of the Academy Award favorite La La Land. The film-slash-musical starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone is up for 14 Oscars, and many film critics believe that there aren't very many categories in question that it won't walk away as a winner. La La Land has all of the juice right now, it is an unstoppable juggernaut dancing on top of motor vehicles on the freeway in the middle of Los Angeles – which is not an advisable course of behavior for anyone else. 

However, Kareem the Dream does have some criticisms. And he dropped them, just like a drop step, turnaround sky hook, right on your head top, in an op-ed for The Hollywood Reporter earlier in the week. He said that although this movie was, "bold, daring and deserving of all its critical and financial success," he took some real issue with, "its portrayal of jazz, romance and people of color.”

John Legend plays Keith, a jazz musician who goes the Kenny G route so he can scrape up more paper. And Abdul-Jabbar is not a fan. In fact, he went as far as to say that Keith's character is the only one he took fundamental issue with. He said that "It’s not that a black man can’t be the sellout or the drug dealer, it’s just that they shouldn’t be if they’re the only prominent black character in the story." This contrast in Keith's moral compass stands out even more clearly against Gosling's character, who is portrayed as an authentic artist, passionate about the craft of jazz music – which honestly does look a little funny in the light.

Even more so than that, he posits that there's some shady business going on with how jazz as an entire genre is being discussed in the film. “Writer-director Damien Chazelle should tell the story as he sees fits with whatever ethnic arrangement he desires. However, it is fair to question his color wheel when it involves certain historical elements..."

Regardless, La La Land is the favorite, by a long shot, to win Best Picture at this year's Academy Awards. If you saw the movie, how did you feel about John Legend as Keith, and the overall picture this film left in your mind about jazz?


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