Chappelle's back with his latest surprise drop, 'Redemption Song,' a follow up to November's 'Unforgiven.' With a running time of 10:46, 'Redemption Song' lands lighter than his previous drops. He recounts redemption in a multilayered conversation that touches on the recent state of American politicsand his standing with Comedy Central. Let's rewind.
Gen-Z has come to know Dave Chappelle as a pseudo-political thought leader, experiencing the comedian out of context from his career-making hitlist. From making sketch comedy cool again on Chappelle's Show (2003), to leaving the world in tears from specials like Killin' Them Softly (2000), Dave Chappelle has long been considered one of the comedy greats, his name sits with the likes of Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, and Jerry Seinfeld. After a fallout with Comedy Central over contract negotiations during the third season of Chappelle's Show, the comedian metaphorically lit a flame and walked away. After twelve years out of the spotlight, Chappelle returned to the scene a few years ago, the industry welcoming the artist with open arms as he dropped various stand-up specials and was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in 2019.
Following the 2019 release of Chappelle's special Sticks and Stones, the comedian has taken a turn away from comedy and towards conversation, a result more reflective of our current discourse than of his own progression. Hidden in a two-part release on Netflix, Chappelle's The Bird Revelation is his first intimate think piece, where the comedian unpacks his experience with the entertainment industry through the novel 'Pimp: The Story of My Life' by Iceberg Slim.
Following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the police, Chappelle dropped a 30-minute set titled '8:46' on YouTube, a raw and unrefined expression of pain and anger over the injustice and brutality that plagued the country through the whole of 2020. Chappelle was celebrated for his serious turn, some calling it a "meditation on Black America."
In November, Chappelle dropped another surprise set on Instagram to the fanfare of many. 'Unforgiven', was ripping clapback at the entertainment industry's exploitation of talent, taking audiences through the SparkNotes version of events that led him to break his contract with Comedy Central, quit Chappelle's Show, and flee to South Africa. 'Unforgiven' ends with a call to the audience, "I'm begging you: If you ever liked me, if you ever think there was anything worthwhile about me, I'm begging you, please don't watch that show. I'm not asking you to boycott any network — boycott me. Boycott Chappelle's Show." The set was well-received by many, sparking the hashtag #BoycottChappellesShow, and leading the removal of the show from the HBO Max platform after a short time. Despite widespread support for Chappelle, the set also garnered some negative reactions from fellow comedians who saw the video as ungrateful and pushed back on the idea of completely erasing a major era in comedy history for the sake of a check.
Well today, the comedian has returned with a new message. Chappelle opens by speaking about his experience battling coronavirus, and more frustratingly, battling the social media coronavirus task force that no one asked for. He weaves in and out of commentary about 'whistleblowers,' citing the January 6th insurrection of the Capitol building with a reminder, "watch the tapes, watch that crowd that told Colin Kaepernick he can't kneel during a football game try to beat a police officer to death with an American flag." In only the way Dave Chappelle could, he sums up a month's worth of frustration and anger into 10 pointed minutes. 'Redemption Song' revisits some of the critiques levied at Chappelle following the release of 'Unforgiven,' the comedian doubling down on his message and sharing an update.
For those who didn't follow the short-lived #BoycottChappellesShow mini-movement, it worked. Chappelle reflects on his decision, saying "I went to my real boss, you" and exclaiming that the efforts worked. The show was boycotted, ratings plummeted, and almost immediately, Dave Chappelle got a call from Comedy Central. The network reinstated his license and compensated him for his work, to the tune of millions of dollars. The comedian jokes, "because of you, I have no idea what dicks taste like." For those who thought 'Unforgiven' was an ungrateful tantrum, 'Redemption Song' is the thank you we needed.
The comedian ends his set with a simple message, "I can finally say to Comedy Central, it's been a pleasure doing business with you." The boycott is over- stream Chappelle's Show, which is officially back on Netflix.