“Chicago not Chiraq” has been a rallying cry for many citizens of America’s third most populous city. The name “Chiraq” has been connected to Chicago as result of the high number of shootings in the locale over the last decade. While gun violence was up in 2014, it should be noted that last year the city recorded the lowest number of homicides since 1965.
Certain Chicago neighborhoods are still battling with an influx of illegal guns, and parts of the media continue to tag the town as a sanctuary of savagery. Up next famed director Spike Lee is aiming his cameras on the city for a movie with the working title “Chiraq.”
According to reports, Lee’s next film is a modern-day musical interpretation of the ancient Greek comedy Lysistrata. Chicago natives Kanye West, Common, and Jennifer Hudson have been attached to the Amazon Studios picture with Samuel L. Jackson, John Cusack, and Jeremy Piven mentioned as cast members as well.
The Windy City’s Jo Jo Capone is working to thwart both the image of his hometown as the American Baghdad and the actual gun violence consuming Chicago. Capone connected with AllHipHop.com, and he discussed his role in getting Spike Lee to rename his movie.
The CEO of Act Like It Entertainment also reveals his own personal loss from gun violence, and how he helps Chicago’s youth change the destructive outcomes taking place on the streets of his hometown.
[ALSO READ: Spike Lee Reportedly Recruiting Kanye West, Common, & Samuel L. Jackson For “Chiraq” Movie]
You talked about how it’s contradictory to talk about “black lives matter,” but then we’re arguing and fighting among ourselves.
Exactly, we had an issue a couple of days ago with Spike Lee because he’s trying to profit off the name of “Chiraq”. Now he’s changed the name [of his upcoming movie]. Everybody got out there and said, “You’re not about to exploit us.” Common and Kanye got involved with it.
They just came to people that are very instrumental in the Chicago scene, including myself. I have my own label Act Like It Entertainment, and my movement is Global Gangsters. Under that umbrella, I have members that are part of the movement in every major city. That’s another way I’m able to touch on a situation quick, to be in a position to make something wrong, right before it gets out of proportion.
So Spike Lee did change the name of the movie?
Yeah, he changed it from Chiraq. He actually sent a camera crew to my neighborhood and took pictures. He involved us, because I spoke out publicly about it. How are you gonna do a movie about Chiraq and I’m not one of the first five people that you call when you’re dealing with Chicago? Something ain’t right. Once I spoke about it, that very next day that got they sh*t together. You ain’t shooting no movie out here and I’m not part of it. It don’t work like that.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: As of press time, Spike Lee has not confirmed he has changed the name of the movie from “Chiraq”.]
I saw that Twista set up an organization to talk to some of the young people in the city about ending the violence. How do you think some of the citizens can work to counteract some of the extreme violence that’s happening?
Everybody should be willing to counteract, because it’s our kids that are dying. These are our cousins, our nieces, our babies. It’s our people. Like a lot of people say, it starts in the household. But a kid can go outside that household and turn into a hole other person. I bare witness to that. I was respectable in the house and a demon once I left.
I knew both sides of the street, both sides of the fence. Once I left that household, I would wild out. That’s why if I can prevent that, I do. I lost a son to gun violence. My son got shot nine times. It’s not no game to me. You would never think of losing your child until it happens.
I didn’t want him to do what I’ve done. I think that may have backfired, because he knew I was reckless. I was trying to tell him to do the right thing, but he felt like I’m trying to throw wool over his eyes. But I was expressing my love for you by saying, “What I went through, I don’t need you to go through it.”
Does that message resonate with the young people?
Yeah, it resonates. I’m still in my hood. I’m still on my block. I’m still in these areas. The thing is the entertainers think they can come through, sell records, do a commercial, and then they’re gone. That ain’t the case for me. I’m in the hood. I’m with them. I’m standing on the block when people from four blocks overcome shooting over here.
I’m standing out there with that. So when I see people shooting, I go right to that neighborhood like, “Look man, I was standing out there. Bullets don’t have a name. What if we come shooting over here? Look around. There’s kids playing. When you just came and shot around that corner, you didn’t know a nine month pregnant lady was about to come around the corner too. You wasn’t thinking like that. Whatever you came over here shooting for, could have been spoken on.”
It’s about prevention. Until the bullets start blasting and somebody loses their life, there’s a point where you step out of that equation, because it’s really out of your hands. You can’t really tell somebody how to feel when they lose their loved one. You can try to talk some sense into them, but they’re hurt. So it’s either they’re gonna have forgiveness in their heart or they’re gonna have vindication in their heart. So if you can prevent it from going to the gun part, then you’re cool.
Then you have to ask, “Where the hell are all these guns coming from?” It’s a conspiracy. When we grew up, it was one gun among 20 people. Now it’s 20 guns among the 20. Guns are not cheap. If it’s a recession and guns cost money, how is it more guns? It’s a conspiracy.
They act like they’re melting these guns down from these [police] busts. They’re not melting these guns down. It’s an allusion. They make you think they’re melting these guns, and then sell them right back into the community. They got to. Just think about it. Look how easy it is to access a gun.
[ALSO READ: EXCLUSIVE: Jo Jo Capone Talks Settling Game/Young Thug Beef + Working To Reconcile Issues Between Thug, Birdman & Lil Wayne]
Jo Jo Capone is scheduled to release his album Talented Gangster on June 23 via Act Like It Entertainment and Caroline Capitol.
Watch the WGN report about Spike Lee’s Chiraq film below.