From the Stereo to Your Screen: Digital Underground and Nothing But Trouble

“Same Song” by Digital Underground, from Nothing But Trouble

 

 

 

 

Y’know what’s weird about this video? Digital Underground’s performance in Nothing But Trouble of “Same Song” is, essentially, a music video, and actually kind of better than the video itself. It’s certainly less racially problematic than the video itself, despite the fact that the members of Digital Underground are basically the only people of color in the film at all.

That’s a lot to unload right at the top, isn’t it? Let’s backtrack: Nothing But Trouble is a 1991 movie starring John Candy, Chevy Chase, and Demi Moore. It’s a very, very weird tale of a town built on top of a burning underground coal fire. When I was a kid, this was a particular favorite, because it’s basically like a cartoon come to life.

nothing but trouble movie still

There’s a strange logic to everything, despite the freakiness of it all, up to and including a rollercoaster called Mr. Bonestripper that’s used to execute criminals like something out of a particularly dark Looney Toon. The set design looks like Charles Addams went low-rent, sort of. It’s also not as terrible as the Razzies for which it was nominated would have you believe. It’s like a comedic, East Coast Chainsaw Massacre kind of thing. Candy’s good in dual roles, Chase plays a jerk fairly well, and Akroyd chews scenery behind a load of old-man makeup.

The highlight, however, is that Digital Underground get pulled into this strange courtroom, and is forced to perform, in order to prove that they’re musicians. They jam out on “Same Song,” and even though Dan Akroyd gets to play an organ solo and you get to see Tupac faux-sing the hook, but you never get to hear his verse.

nothing but trouble asians

That verse is reserved for the full-length music video, which works mainly with the theme of “all around the world” from the hook, including some really really really stereotypical depictions of just about every culture in the world. Looking in on it from the perspective of 25 years, it’s almost cringe-worthy. Shock G/Humpty Hump and Money-B look like they’re having one hell of a time, to be sure, and Tupac as an African king is particularly inspired, but the depictions of Asian and Jewish cultures are particularly cringeworthy.

nothing but trouble tupac

 

Still, this is Pac’s first-ever appearance, and it’s a pretty great guest appearance. He’s the loosest, smoothest thing on a track that’s already pretty damn funky already, and this makes getting the Digital Underground album on which “Same Song” appears — This Is An EP Release — worth your time.

The video shows Dr. Dre and Eazy E ever-so-briefly near the end, and Dan Akroyd keeps popping up, as well, leading me to believe that he’d appear at the opening of a paper bag. Dude’s got not shame, which is fine if you’re promoting a movie, but man — a Canadian blues fan is just about the whitest thing this side of Michael McDonald.

Great song, weird movie, terrible video.

Nick Spacek

Nick Spacek

Nick Spacek writes about films scores in his monthly OST column for Starburst Magazine (http://www.starburstmagazine.com), and can be found talking about movie soundtracks via the From & Inspired By podcast (http:///www.fromandinspiredby.com). He was once a punk, but realized you can't be hardcore and use the word "adorable" as often as he does.
Nick Spacek
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