In Viceland’s music documentary show Noisey music is a natural, renewable resource. It’s accessible to the wealthiest of people, but also a vehicle of economic mobility for the impoverished. But gun powder is also made from natural resources — and music has been manipulated to incite, justify, and profit from violence, happiness, and at times a blurred mix of both.
Former Vice on HBO production assistant Zach Goldbaum hosts Noisey and travels to São Paulo, Miami, and Compton, California, to speak with those connected with the area’s music scene. Whether it’s a multi-platinum rapper returning to the hometown that birthed his career or the shop owner who gets a spike in sales when dance parties erupts in the streets, their voices are the music.
“Bompton” isn’t on any ordinary map you’ll find of California. But after international rap superstar Kendrick Lamar’s recent success, it’s on THE map.
Bompton is a section of Compton, California, with a very high concentration of members of the street gang Bloods. Out of the three episodes, “Bompton” spends the most time exploring the society as much as the music. You find out a “California zipper” describes stitches that run down the side of someone’s body, usually from a violent assault. The show travels to Campanella Park, where residents casually state the area is dangerous because it borders territories owned by rival gang the Crips.
It centers on an interview with Lamar that takes place in a Bompton backyard with the musician’s friends, many wearing gang affiliations on their sleeve, hanging in the background. It feels as though this group of friends are overseers of Kendrick and Bompton as a whole, ensuring their territory and its crown jewel stays unsullied.
Early in the episode, Noisey films a band practicing at Lamar’s old grade school as a fight between students broke out. Jazzy trumpets continue to blare throughout the next 80 seconds, while Lamar and a former teacher of his separately describe the violence that permeated the school. This sort of filmmaking makes the inextricable nature of the culture and the music obvious.
At moments the show feels like it’s trying to artificially create suspense. At one point while strolling through an alley known for being dangerous, Kendrick’s childhood friend, the rapper Lil L, wishes he could show Goldbaum graffiti on the walls in a gated area outside the camera shot. Goldbaum agrees to climb the gate to see the graffiti, and we come to see a barrier so short and non-threatening that the neighborhood kids likely don’t think twice about scaling it. Did the exchange add to the scene? It’s inclusion, instead of simply cutting to them walking by the graffiti, felt frustratingly fake.
But outside of these minor immersion deterrents, which are few and far between, “Bompton” is an excellent adventure through an area often spoken about in rap songs but rarely explored as complexly.