By Staff Writer Seth Tamarkin.
Amid all the racist scandals dominating the news cycle this Black History Month, most people need a positive antidote to counteract them. Enter Liquid Science and Trigger Warning with Killer Mike, two recent Netflix docuseries which celebrate different cultures without being preachy or heavy-handed.
The first series, Liquid Science, stars Wu-Tang Clan’s GZA as he explores scientific breakthroughs that barely get reported in the news. For the uninitiated, GZA is a critically acclaimed rapper from the Wu-Tang Clan, and his album Liquid Swords, from which the show’s title is based on, often gets referred to as one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time.
Why focus on science though? Well, for the past few years GZA has engulfed himself in scientific study, moving away from his street-oriented lyrics to become a Neil Degrasse Tyson-like figure who gives talks at Oxford and Harvard while still spitting rhymes on Wu-Tang albums. But while Tyson’s Netflix show, Cosmos, largely deals with the overarching history of science and its intangible ideas, GZA’s show focuses more on the actual scientists currently trying to change the world.
That viewpoint makes for interesting television since it is shocking to see some of the developments being worked on right in our backyards. Framing each episode off one topic, like climate change, GZA visits these scientists for fun, albeit sometimes awkward conversations, and sees their demonstrations in action.
In the climate change episode, for example, GZA talks to researchers who responded to the bee crisis by creating mechanical bees that can do all the functions of bees like pollinate flowers. A refreshing part of the show is also that GZA doesn’t just nod his head, often he challenges the scientists’ views when their ideas seem almost harmful to their supposed goal of helping humanity.
Also refreshing are the clips where science is explained in laymen terms. For the first time in any science show I have seen, all the actors in the clips are black. As far as representation goes, it’s nice to see a show demonstrating young black girls and boys being interested in science. If you’re a fan of hip-hop, or just want to see a science show that is more unique than most, give Liquid Science a look.
Another fascinating docuseries is the hilarious Trigger Warning with Killer Mike. Killer Mike is a Grammy-winning musician from the group Run The Jewels and pro-black activist.
His new show sees him putting his own revolutionary tactics for social change to use in Georgia, Atlanta, and seeing how they fare in the real world.
In the first episode, Mike demonstrates how hard it is in modern society to “buy black”, or only buy from black-owned proprietors, by vowing to do so for 72 hours.
Viewers quickly find how harsh that reality is when, within the first five minutes, Mike realizes he can’t drive a car since there are no black-owned car companies.
The episode gives Mike a chance to highlight black businesses too, including Figgers Communication, a phone company founded by Freddie Figgers, a black man. With his Figger phone in tow and a bicycle provided by another black business, Mike continues his journey throughout Atlanta.
In one funny scene at a strip club, Mike explains to an Asian-American stripper that “no racism, but I’m only spending money in the black community for the next three days, and you ain’t black.”
In another episode, Killer Mike discusses how the Hell’s Angels biker gang legitimized their business with a clothing brand and uses that model to do a legitimate business with the Crips and Bloods.
“I thought to myself, what’s preventing black gangs from doing the same thing? If outlaws are going to make money, I’ll be damned if they’re gonna be like White Jesus and not look like us,” Mike says.
He teams up with the gangs to create a soda brand called ‘Crip-A-Cola’ and ‘Blood Pop’, and hilarity ensues as he tries to market the soda brands to focus groups and farmers markets.
While both of those shows are Netflix exclusives, there are still tons of other shows created by black people that deserve your viewing.
So, instead of giving your valuable time to the many racist scandals that somehow still happen in 2019, celebrate black history month with some great television instead.