If you’re still sleeping on the podcast revolution, Bronzeville is a chance to catch up. It features elite actors and a riveting story based in 1940s Chicago.
Episode Two of Larenz Tate and Laurence Fishburne‘s audio drama premiered today on iTunes and Spotify (LISTEN HERE), so if you need something to listen to while you work out, clean up or just kill time, you would be wise to check it out.
The 10-part series takes you back in time to the South Side of Chicago, long before the President was threatening to invade with federal forces. In the 1940s, Bronzeville and other self-sufficient Black enclaves had thriving economies and vibrant cultures.
The neighborhood’s independence was built on a community-wide lottery, kept alive by numbers runners and local citizens, who you’ll meet throughout the series.
Tate, Fishburne, Tracee Ellis Ross and Omari Hardwick are on their A-games as they relive the stories of the millions of men and women who left overt racism in the South for northern cities like Chicago in America’s Great Migration. They’re joined in the booth by Wood Harris, Tika Sumpter, Lance Reddick, Brittany Snow and Mitch Pileggi.
Fishburne, who directed the audio action, promised USA Today, “It’s gonna be better than TV.” Two episodes in, Bronzeville is over-delivering on that promise. Here are CoupCoup40Cal’s five reasons to check out Bronzeville instead of binge-watching another series on Netflix.
1. It’s Real
If you need an escape from the fakeness of reality TV, Bronzeville takes you back to a unique era in American history. TV fans can imagine it as The Wire meets Boardwalk Empire, a complex period piece that connects the dots of the past and present with bits of humor, romance and suspense. Whatever keeps you listening, Bronzeville‘s lessons about navigating racial politics and maintaining group-economics are as important today as ever.
For those who’ve never heard of the real Bronzeville, it was once home to more than 300,000 residents; mostly free Black Americans who migrated to the city in search of better lives after slavery and Jim Crow. Many squeezed into the almost 40-block neighborhood that still stretches between State Street and Cottage Grove on Chicago’s South Side and built a now legendary community.
Today, Bronzeville is a healthy middle class section of Chicago. Still, its residents will tell you about the days when The Supremes, The Temptations and the Jackson 5 cut their teeth there; or about the undeniable vibe of unity and hope that kept the community afloat for decades in spite of outside forces like the mafia and the police.
2. Listen To The Stars
It’s rare that you get to appreciate the skills of heralded actors without actually seeing them. But listening to performers like Ellis Ross, Sumpter and Tate makes it clear that their talent isn’t defined by their looks. Instead of costumes, Bronzeville’s scenes are set by the cast’s powerful voices, and everyone delivers across the board. Under Fishburne’s direction, no one misses a beat in bringing 1940s Chicago to life.
Though you can’t see the stars, you can imagine them acting out each scene thanks to their unmistakable voices. Power’s Hardwick and Black-ish’s Ellis Ross are just two of the many power players who dedicated their time and talent to the indie project.
Thanks in part to its star power, Bronzeville debuted on the Top 10 of the iTunes charts and continues to pick up steam as the drama unfolds with each episode. The classic soap opera style of storytelling appears to be a much-needed blast from the past in an era when most people consume media as they multi-task.
3. It’s Independent
Like the community of Bronzeville, the audio series is a fully independent production – not that you could tell from the quality, though. Writer Josh Olsen teamed with Fishburne’s Cinema Gypsy Productions and Tate’s TateMen Entertainment to bring the story of Bronzeville to 2017 in high-definition, and they didn’t take any shortcuts.
Fishburne and Tate wanted to bring the story to the people as soon as possible and chose audio to avoid the long process of getting a film financed, shot, produced and marketed.
Producer Kc Wayland put his golden touch on the audio to bring Bronzeville to life via sound effects and flawless timing that will make you feel like you’re back in the 1940s if you close your eyes.
Hopefully, Bronzeville‘s success leads to more indie media and less stale Hollywood blockbusters in the near future. Either way, the cast and crew deserve an A for bringing the story to life without the help of a major studio.
4. Podcasts really are better than TV
There’s a reason it seems like everyone either listens to or has their own podcast these days: they are the future of media. You can enjoy podcasts while you handle chores, travel or go to bed – and most importantly, it’s all free.
You can download podcasts and listen to them on the go with no wi-fi or data connection and it’s easy to pause and pick up where you left off.
If you haven’t already explored the iTunes podcast library, start searching and you’ll quickly find hours of hilarious and uncensored content including celebrity interviews, self-help shows and storytelling endeavors like Bronzeville.
Fishburne and Tate were clearly onto something when they chose this format to tell Bronzeville’s story; we can only hope the podcast trend continues to bring us equally ambitious projects.
5. Your Imagination Needs It
If radio killed books and television killed radio, then podcasts are the rebirth of audio-only media. With screens constantly projecting doctored images of reality to us, it’s a nice change of pace to indulge your non-visual senses in Bronzeville.
We already know what Tate, Fishburne and Ellis Ross look like, but listening to them will allow you to get lost in the story as you paint your own image of Chicago’s glorious past.
Don’t be afraid of the mental exercise, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how Bronzeville stimulates your mind’s eye; it may even help spark your imagination in other areas of life.