At Film Threat, we report directly on the front lines of the battle between art and the commercialization of art. As the old saying goes, is art considered “art,” if nobody sees it? We get screeners from hundreds of filmmakers each month, hoping we will see their art and bring it to light. As we focus on film, others focus on music. From the UxU agency and writer Christianne Williams comes their short film LECT, which follows the burgeoning career of contemporary hip-hop artist Lect, AKA Michael “Intellect” Dowd.
The short opens with a sample of Lect’s fast-paced lyricism and moves into an animated sequence of his life growing up on the streets of Pensacola, FL. We then discover his dreams of playing professional basketball and football only to be shot down by God through injuries. Looking for direction, he joins the military finding his one true love…hip hop.
During his first tour, he meets Chris “CFC” Carter, and together they team-up to make music together. Why not? It’s just the two of them thousands of miles from home. CFC creates the music as DJ and Lect is the performer and lyricist. Dowd is dubbed “Lect” from the criticism of his lyrics being too intellectual.
“…he joins the military finding his one true love…hip hop.”
LECT hits on a few issues in regards to his relationship with hip-hop. First, there’s being a veteran. While the government offers various valuable programs helping vets find employment after service, few programs are directed toward the arts. This is where Jim Clemente and XG_Productions comes in, giving a voice to an artist with military service.
Then there’s the business of music. Record labels want music that appeals to the masses. Music that sounds like “nursery rhymes.” But for Lect, dumbing down his music is not an option. While described as enlightened, engaged, and transcendent, Lect finds it difficult to break out because his music focuses on storytelling and poetry as a way to connect with listeners and never talks about money, women, and cars. He was told he could not get signed by a label because he was real hip-hop.
Lastly, there is discrimination against veterans. Their lives are not so different from others who suffered PTSD. Veterans have also seen real gunfire and real death, but it’s not the same as their domestic counterparts.
“…it definitely leans to the side of the art of hip-hop without becoming pretentious…”
Running at twenty-five minutes, LECT lays out a fascinating story of an atypical hip-hop artist, who breaks down hip-hop into its individual artistic layers and finds its beauty in its words and composition. It shines a light on an aspect of this musical genre, you’ve probably never seen before.
My one quibble is the quality of the audio recording is subpar, which is ironic since much of the film is shot in a recording studio. I like the creative use of lighting, making the interviews more interesting to watch. It’s done cheaply without looking cheap as almost a lesson for beginning documentarians. And the story of LECT is well structured. I’m not sure the film definitively resolves the debate, but it definitely leans to the side of the art of hip-hop without becoming pretentious at all.
LECT (2019) Directed by UxU Agency. Written by Christianne Williams. Featuring Michael “Intellect” Dowd, Nicholas “Nico” Laget, Chris “CFC” Carter, Jim Clemente, Brian “Maddfrequency” Leotaud.
7 out of 10 stars
"…"...for Lect, dumbing down his music is not an option.""