We need to talk about merging the genius of “Russian Doll” with the dopeness of Wyclef’s “Carnival”
Nostalgia is the engine of survival when you’re stuck in the lackluster orbit of abandonment, as part of the generation that suffers from the “middle child syndrome.”
It used to be that pop culture was the celebrated unifier that merges the tastebuds of consumers, who recognize dopeness without relying on the compass of influencers and generic trends.
But those days vanished the moment being Insta-worthy and Snapchat-ready became the verified mode of communication.
Suddenly Cardi B is the absolute shit who will soon claim her Las Vegas residency with a sparse catalogue of hits.
Names and faces of notables resemble a photo album of strangers that force you to search for proof that your tribe hasn’t died out.
And the era when the genre of film and music converged to produce the purposed soundtrack, that elevated characters and the events that defined them to the heights of creative excellence, has been replaced with bits of verses and beats that enjoy a minute of adulation before the cycle moves in a trendier direction.
When I moved to NYC back in the early summer of 1997, I had already spent a torturous year in Jersey City, where I diligently plotted by permanent exodus to the location of my dreams.
The concrete jungle was a vast playground that featured all the tools of imaginative advancement within reach, as blocks and blocks of inspiration embraced each Subway stop, as you hurriedly spun through the turnstiles and obeyed the lighted path to the next neighborhood of treasures.
It’s now quite rare to witness the authenticity of Manhattan captured on film with the rawness that summons vivid memories of an era that will never be replicated, because of how fleeting beauty can be when it arrives in abundant supply.
You thought you found it in certified cultural phenoms, like, Seinfeld, Sex and the City, and Friends, but the spice of diversity regulated those offerings to a mostly White template, which as we all know is the exact opposite of what the Big Apple historically represents.
While I was still the die-hard resident of the city that obstinately rejected my undying affections, I had the pleasure of viewing the short-lived and amazingly fulfilling HBO series, How to Make It in America.
Aside from the eye-candy of characters that were gratifyingly exploiting their youth with ambitious exploits, there was also the endorsement of the classic New York offering that gave me the love and pride that stems from well-invested relationships.
When the love affair finally runs its course, the bitterness eventually matures into the assessment of how the very bad days shouldn’t overpower the magnificence of achieving the unbreakable bond between the young and impressionable student of life, and the city of awareness that never stopped challenging the hustle-mentality of restless dwellers, who had to earn the privilege of the kind of wealth that can’t be exchanged for diminished value.
It’s now been about 4 years since I abandoned the pledge to be a life-long Manhattanite, and while sporadic visits have served as evidence of how my abrupt exit will remain emphatically validated, there’s no escaping the haunting vibes of a first love who still tugs at the heartstrings, even if the once-irresistible qualities are unrecognizable.
The only way to revive the vibes of yesteryears is during an unexpected trip to the nostalgic junction, that’s masterminded by wizards who know how to help you find your way back home, when you’re desperately lost.
This is the wondrous embrace of Netflix’s latest gem, Russian Doll, starring Orange is the New Black staple, Natasha Lyonne, in the role of Nadia, a young woman who is trapped in a hellish episode of repeatedly dying as she navigates buzzy encounters with partygoers, against the tonal backdrop of a reminiscently palatable New York City.
You are remarkably chill, with the lightly boozy mood swing of emptiness being refilled with the tapestry of what used to be when being meant swinging from bodegas to dimly-lit corners for weed breaks, before skipping along sidewalks, and being awash with the sights and sounds of aliveness, that were heightened by youthful zeal and limitless soundtracks to match silent films in your head.
When it’s that good, the images have to be paired with the catalogue of sound that also recalls those days of blissful fawning over accessible geniuses, who produced the kind of shit that still overtakes the current messiness hitting the airwaves with pathetic deposits of stolen goods.
The original musical gangsters who infused my soul with the currency that wealthily sustains my temperament in this era of instant disposability, invited themselves into my vision, as I watched Nadia entertainingly battle the bad luck of reappearing after the harrowing fall down the stairs that broke her neck.
All she really needed to do was — Stay Alive.
But the curse of her life wouldn’t allow the detour from the fated Apocalypse.
The shit gets so bad that if she could trade it for just a few seconds with the Fugee squad, piping about the women from Guantánamo — she would gladly oblige.
But Nadia is caught between the dizzying spell of non-stop beginnings, and the perplexed stare that could easily compete with the equally baffled expression of famed Mona Lisa.
But in the end, there’s no end. Death is The Carnival, that regales the spirit into the festive reception that life had to foster through the facets of graciousness, that creativity used to laboriously execute back when we appreciated the process more than hasty output.
The reason why we can readily accept the reactivation of Wyclef Jeans’ 1997 masterpiece with unapologetic disses to the watered down versions that are assaulting these times, is embedded in the truth of how the past never begs permission to make reappearances.
And when you have a very New York show encouraging the faded glory of a woefully harassed city, that summons all the elements that made you fall helplessly in lust, then you have to mix in the dopeness of the chosen soundtrack, that’s filled with delectable ingredients — from a diasporan recipe of collided genres.
The best things in life are free, and when nostalgia strikes with lifesaving brew that restores functioning settings to the venue that presented the best you ever had — that’s when the merging of Russian Doll and The Carnival is the antidote to climatic static.
No matter how dark it gets, there’s always a way out.