Saturday, January 22, 2011

An evening and a morning with J.D. Jimmerson IV

"A young black guy dropped some CDs off for you," my coworker told me when I showed up for work the other day. "He sure had been smoking an awful lot of ganja."

"Ah," I said. "Hello, J.D. Jimmerson IV, aka Mr. Aggravated Foe, from Goodwin Avenue, Lake Como."

J.D. used to work at the record store I came to Fort Worth to open. (It closed for good in 2004 after 25 years under four different corporate owners.) I wrote a story about him for the Fort Worth Weekly back in 2003, but I hadn't heard from him in a few years. Turns out he'd called a mutual friend to find out where I was working, and paid a visit to my job a couple of hours before I rolled in. I'm sorry I missed him.

These days, J.D. works at the Grandy's on Camp Bowie West, near the Weatherford traffic circle. We drove by there the other day and I said, "Hi, J.D." Now my sweetie thinks I conjured him. He's been selling his own hip-hop CDs and copies of his locally notorious low-budget horror movie Da Killa from behind the counter there for years. ("Here's your chicken fried steak. You like hip-hop? How about horror movies?") He's a charismatic young man who exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit, the kind of salesman who could sell snow to an Eskimo. He just released the long-awaited sequel -- you can see characters in the movie wearing its promo T-shirts; talk about your product placement -- Da Killa 2, a veritable Como-centric War and Peace that sprawls over two DVDs, and he also stars in Rimz, a feature-length film written and directed by Da Killa cinematographer Walter J. Archey III, aka Tahiti of Awkquarius/PPT fame.

The best first: Rimz is a tale of a down-home Everyman (played by J.D.) who travels to the city (needless to say, Fort Worth) to make his fortune working in a rim shop, where he labors in indentured servitude to pay off his customized chrome status symbols. His life gets more complicated when his wheels are stolen, and turn up on the vehicle of a middle class college kid (played by Kasper G, who also acted in Da Killa and its sequel) who stole money from his mother (who needed it to pay his brother's private school tuition) to make the buy.

The situations are true-to-life in the manner of Car Wash, Friday, or Do the Right Thing (including a running commentary by a DJ character who's an homage to the Samuel L. Jackson character in Spike Lee's classic), and the characters are well drawn; it's a measure of Archey's success as a filmmaker that both his protagonist and antagonist are sympathetic, and they make us care about the struggles they're going through. In the end, Rimz's message is an indictment of the materialistic lifestyle advocated in a lot of African-American targeted entertainment. As J.D. tells his adversary in the closing scene, "It's not the rims that make the man, it's the man that makes the rims."

(Because J.D. believes in giving you value for your money, the balance of the DVD is filled with some of his music videos, including one for "Knuckleheads.")

Da Killa 2 is another kettle of fish: part B-movie, part home movie, part music video. Here the narrative arc is a little harder to discern; its episodic structure flows more like a series of Youtube viral videos with recurring characters and situations than an actual feature. People eat, drink, smoke, hang out in front of convenience stores, transform into zombies, smoke, shoot guns, are menaced by horror movie villains, smoke, and so on. You get the idea.

Mr. Aggravated Foe is a natural physical comedian; he's Anansi the trickster, tricked out in modern-day hip-hop duds. Besides weed-dealing protagonist Jack Daniels Daniels, he plays a coke-snorting grandmother, a TV newscaster, the Hamburglar, and a guy in a chicken suit. With a skilled director like Archey to rein him in, his performance (as in Rimz) can be quite affecting. Left to his own devices, as he is here, his manic energy can get a little diffuse. J.D. shot and edited Da Killa 2 and he could have used a second set of eyes. Not all of the scenes are even funny, let alone contributing to the storyline, and the outside shots are plagued by wind noise on the soundtrack. Audio levels vary dramatically from scene to scene, and the background music often overwhelms the dialogue.

Still, you can't take your eyes off Da Killa 2. In a way, it's a time capsule from Fort Worth in 2010 (the big snowstorm even makes an appearance, even though the action is supposed to take place on Halloween night). Imagine if Warhol was black, not pasty-white, and earthy, not effete. Sly Stone said it, and J.D. Jimmerson proves it: Everybody is a star -- if they're willing to hustle.

ADDENDUM: To purchase J.D.'s CDs and DVDs, call 817-305-6926. Cash only.


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