Caprice Grind: An Oddisee of Becoming

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Concrete surfers, riding frozen slabs of bleached charcoals and grays. They glide on along metal energies, moving among a fixed, but fluid world. They become poetry in motion.

“Caprice Down”, off Oddisee’s 2013 release The Beauty in All, is soulful Cali style condensed into a dynamic purity. There is no storyteller, no lyrical component to the work. The piece is designed solely for the listener’s personal journey. The flow of the composition creates an inward movement, a Metta Sutta set to beats. “Caprice Down”, by itself, would simply be enough, a chant that you could set on repeat, but director Jeremy Ian Thomas uses visuals to create a cinematic symmetry.

The video opens with a wide shot, taken in the expanse of Long Beach, California from across the water. It cuts to the outside of a dirty beige apartment building with burgundy trim in Hammer City. Three men, one in the kitchen flips an imperfect pancake high into the air with practiced precision. Another, wearing a sock with a hole in it, readies a skateboard. His slow motion, full faced laugh conveys a sense of unbounded mirth. The third, caught unaware, spews orange juice from his mouth in slow motion. The viewer is treated to unencumbered, unpolished, imperfect raw humanity.

The three men, members from Hammer City: Big Juice, E.C., and ManMan are part of a documentary project called On the Grind by James Cheeks III. On the Grind is, like the skaters who flow through “Caprice Down”, a project moving toward completion. It’s “part of a movement to help at-risk youth and skate park development in troubled neighborhoods,” wrote Cheeks.

“I made this film for my cousin who has spent his entire adult-life behind bars and for all of the at-risk youth who are heading in the same direction. I wanted to make a film that I wish had existed when I was 14-years-old and looking for my niche in a confusing world. A film I could relate to, but most importantly, a film that could show me how everyone is important and how every life is valuable, no matter where you’re from or how society labels you.”

The visuals and music from “Caprice Down” blend into each other to create a harmonious flow of poetic motion. Transitions overlay into the current shot, and technical blocking was either left in, or purposely inserted to give an unfinished feel. Images move from slow motion, to imprecise real time fluidity. Open mouthed, silent scream shots, along with harsh blinding glare from the sun add to the guerilla shooting style. It’s at once both imperfect and sublime.

“Caprice Down” becomes an optical metaphor as the skaters move from one place to the next, separate but headed in the same direction.