In case you missed it, the FBI released a report labeling “black identity extremists” a rising threat to America’s law enforcement. Although the black republic is unclear of what the threat is, Tales was right on time with this week’s episode.
In “99 Problems”, the sixth installment of Tales first season, we see Lifetime movie Surviving Compton’s Rhyon Nicole Brown, lead on BET’s The Quad, Peyton Alex Smith, and seasoned actor Charles Malik Whitfield in their attempt to take down a racist mayor. Forming a new conception of Jay-Z’s controversial hit about being a black man in America and the somewhat banned music video from 2004, Executive Producer Irv Gotti and Director Tasha Smith (When Love Kills: The Falicia Blakely Story) had a lot to live up to.
Let’s jump right into it.
“If you having girl problems I feel bad for you son, I got 99 problems and a b*tch ain’t one.”
Young lovers Germaine and Miles are the leaders of their campus Black Lives Matter group when Mayor Christopher Crest announces during a press conference that the city council has passed an ordinance declaring ‘all participants, and supporters of the so-called BLM domestic terrorists.’
Germaine and Miles put the pressure on their members to not be scared as SWAT picks up all the black people on campus. One of their members helps them escape arrest by sending them out the back door. A contact at Black Lives Matter National instructs the young couple to go underground into a safe house operated by a man named Blu. Germaine agrees to go underground only if Miles joins her.
“I don’t know what you take me as or understand the intelligence that Jay-Z has, I’m from rags to riches, niggas I ain’t dumb.”
Once arriving at the safe house, it’s breaking news that the hunt is on in the city for the couple. The news picks at their background, accusing Miles of an unconfirmed sexual assault charge and likening Germaine to her imprisoned father who was an activist as well.
BLM National sends down the message that they need to leave the safe house and meet with a courier in a public park. When meeting the courier, they are directed to ‘hide in plain sight’ for now and reminded that ‘they know what they got themselves into’. The courier leaves, but not before handing them “The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” and mentioning that everything they need to know moving forward is on every page of the book. They rummage through the book looking for notes, but only see the book’s text and mostly dismiss it. Ultimately, the memoir is a clear directive on how to abolish a system and in Douglass’ time the system was slavery.
“I tried to ignore ’em, talk to the Lord, pray for ’em, cause some fools just love to perform.”
Germaine and Miles get all the cash they have and move to a motel after almost being caught by police when walking the streets. At the motel, a video surfaces on the dark web with the mayor calling his black staff ‘niggers’ while around his peers. Feeling that they have their target right where they want him, their BLM National contact Rashida gives them access to the source of the video and they meet him in the park late at night.
The source, named Bennett, used to work for the mayor and says he will gather emails that expose the mayor’s racist behavior for them to retrieve at the same place in the park tomorrow. In the meantime, he tells them to attend the Mayor’s private dinner that evening and get video of his behavior with donors on the scene.
Rashida sets them up with server outfits and cameras so they can tag the room before it opens up to guests. With the cameras on site and social media on fire, the racist dinner attendees are exposed. Germaine and Miles are caught for a moment and beat by security before the black kitchen staff steps in to help them get away and back to the motel.
“Trying to play the boy like he’s saccharine, but ain’t nothing sweet ’bout how I hold my gun”
Germaine and Miles cleanup at the hotel before heading out to meet Bennett at the park for round 2 of exposing the mayor. Germaine spots his dead body first before they both take off running back to the motel. Blu and the courier surprise the two when they come out from the back of the motel room and reveal that Bennett sent all the emails out to CNN and the DOJ before being murdered. The on-the-run lovers are relieved and look forward to returning to the outside world although they now have a firm understanding that they will never be free.
The episode concludes with the couple returning to campus and continuing to protest ‘No Justice, No Peace’. Mayor Crest is arrested for money laundering.
Because the beat for “99 Problems” is so reminiscent and telling, they were able to use it powerfully throughout the episode without overdoing it. It was great casting and Tasha Smith did an amazing job directing. This was her second time acting as a director.
The last episode of the season we will see Tales take on The Roots “You Got Me”. This rap classic already has a stellar story in its music video, so I hope they keep up the good work they’ve been giving us in the second half of its debut season.
Tales airs Tuesdays on BET.