A NATION OF MILLIONS

“A cell is hell – I’m a rebel so I rebel, between bars, got me thinkin’ like an animal” raps Chuck D on “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos”.  This song is taken from Public Enemy’s 1988 release, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back; considered one of the most influential hip-hop albums. Arguably a classic.  You’re wondering, “What does this have to do with this soul group you’re making a documentary about?” 

You’re right to be skeptical. Angry and militant, hip-hop group and a Soul group that effortlessly sings sweet soul ballads…what?!  We’re introduced to “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos” with a recording of Flavor Flav shouting out the London crowd at their show. As we progress to the intro of the track, we hear the sound of jail bars slamming shut, the sound of an a cappella doo-wop group singing, “oh please, oh please, oh please…just give us just one more chance now…”,  and then the warm, signal of an AM radio news report:

A felon from behind bars or you could say real rock from the rock. An unusual musical happening in a MOST unusual place. The state prison…”

The clip of the newsman is taken from The Escorts’ album, All We Need is Another Chance, from the track, “Little Green Apples”.

What is mind-blowing is that the video for “Black Steel...” was shot in Newark Street Prison.  This is significant for two reasons. One; the founder of The Escorts, Reginald Prophet Haynes served time at Newark St, before being transferred to the prison where he started The Escorts.  And two; Newark St. prison, or rather what remains of it, is what is featured in our teaser located on our Kickstarter page. 

The images from PE’s music video and from our teaser are quite powerful.  The music of Public Enemy, and The Legendary Escorts that they sample, is even more powerful than a nation of millions.

- Christopher Black | @TheBlack | Producer

MEET THE DIRECTOR | CORBETT JONES

inding a subject to make a feature length documentary on is no easy task. When my friend Christopher Black came to me in February of 2012 about this project I had already begun filming another piece about the current California Gold Rush. I was hesitant to meet about another thing , to add something else to my plate, but I was having difficulty finding a central character that could hold an audience for 90 minutes. That is what was completely different about The Legendary Escorts.

When I first heard they recorded two albums while behind the bars of Rahway State Prison I was absolutely blown away - as many people are when I tell them this initial “hook” and achievement. However, after meeting and spending time with the group I’ve come to realize that The Escort’s unique history is not what makes them special, but rather it’s their incredible perseverance and ability to overcome any obstacle that comes their way. The same dedication that allowed founding member Reginald Prophet Haynes to record music behind bars is abundant as well in todays group members, William Billy Martin and LaGrant Carlos Harris. Collectively, this persevering spirit has allowed the group to overcome cancer, fight wrongful imprisonment and spread their message of peace and love to millions.

The energy behind The Escorts is contagious. At their shows I’ve seen womens' eyes well up when they hear La’Grant hit the high notes on “Oh Baby Baby”. On the street, I’ve seen men that struggled with keeping themselves out of prison come up to Reggie and Billy and give thanks for being a beacon of hope. No IHOP meal is complete without an excited fan shyly approaching the table, asking for an autograph, and beaming with joy to explain how much the group's music truly means them. The Legendary Escorts were put here to inspire, and spreading that message is exactly why I want to make All We Need Is Another Chance.

All We Need Is Another Chance is the perfect story, full of characteristics that make a classic: adventure, aspiration, betrayal, love, sadness and humor. To me a good film is one that takes you on a journey through all of these emotions, and allows you to leave it feeling thoroughly entertained, encouraged, and, most importantly, inspired. This documentary truly has a little bit of something for everyone.

Thank you for the support so far. Every little bit gets us closer to seeing this project completed!

-Corbett Jones | Director 

WEEKLY ROUNDUP

Hello and Happy Friday!

What a week it has been.  We are moving into full swing with our outreach and media approach and were the subject of some very kind and generous write-ups:

"As regular readers of this site know by now, I’m generally not a big fan of music docs, but the story of Haynes and The Legendary Escorts promises to explore deeper issues, becoming more than just a glorified concert film.... the group has the potential of connecting with a whole new generation that could gain inspiration and insight from their history, whether viewers are soul music fans or not."

- Basil Tsiokos, full article @ what (not) to doc

"... there’s a lot more to this tale of faith, race, justice, injustice, perseverance, rebirth, and the power of music to shine a light into the darkest places....  For our part, we’re hooked."

- full article @ MusicFilmWeb.com

As well as countless posts on the National R&B Society page, Soul Patrol newsletter, and even a retweet from Questlove of the Roots!

We're so thrilled everyone feels as inspired as we do by The Legendary Escorts.

GLAZED WITH SPRINKLES OF INSPIRATION

I guess you could say this documentary has been in the making for some time now.  I remember bringing this idea to the director, Corbett Jones, in late February, unfamiliar with the technical aspects of what goes into making a documentary.  He has an extensive background in documentary filmmaking, which made it ideal for us to work together.  But mind you, this wasn’t an idea I had one night and decided to pitch it, but rather an idea that was birthed from a song.

J Dilla, (RIP) released his Donuts album, which is one of my personal favorites, in 2006.  Donuts is an album full of beats sampled from various sources, from the obscure to the semi-popular.  I spent the rest of 2006 digesting the album as a whole. The next year I spent examining each track; identifying samples used, discerning messages (what is Dilla saying?), drum programming, ya know, protocol for us beat heads/music lovers.

One song on the album quickly became my favorite as I have a penchant for soul groups.

Track 18, titled, “Don’t Cry” 

“Don’t Cry” is significant because during the making of Donuts, Dilla was suffering from Lupus, which he unfortunately succumbed to.  The track is quite emotional and as I stated before, beat heads will search high and low to find the sample, so I went researching.  Soon enough I found the sample, “I Can’t Stand To See You Cry” by The Escorts. “The Escorts?” I thought. “I’ve never heard of them!”  I then purchased the record (the actual vinyl…what a snob!).

In hindsight, I never connected the above image of their second album with their story, until I was well informed.  

In hindsight, I never connected the above image of their second album with their story, until I was well informed.

 

I did more research and discovered that this group, recorded 2 full length albums while all of 7 members were in prison.  I knew that this was unheard of and in my research there wasn’t extensive information on them, which I found surprising.  In reading about them, I wanted to know more. Why were they in prison?  How did everything come about?  Skip to the present and here we are.  Back then I had always wanted to do a documentary on The Escorts, but wasn’t in a position to do so.  Looking back, J Dilla’s song connects to what The Escorts were singing about. J Dilla was telling friends and family not to cry because of his declining health.  Similarly, The Escorts were singing to their friends and family to not cry because of them being locked away.  It’s funny how things come full circle, much like the title Donuts suggests. Life’s like that sometimes.

-- Christopher Black | Producer | @TheBlack

WE'RE LIVE!

fter months of thinking, talking, meeting, greeting, brainstorming, laughing, and learning - we're here.  We're live.  Today, you can find the beginning of our shared journey here on the website, on facebook, and on twitter - we hope you follow along during the months to come on whichever medium best suits you (or all three).  

We're very excited to share this story with you.

hanks so much for joining us!

- Chris, Anna & Corbett