In regards to Crooklyn
(1994), I wrote about how the use of text, more specifically subtitling, disables listening (Found here:Text as a Source of Deafness
So how does this relate to Chi-Raq (2015)? Similarly, Chi-Raq uses text, but the text performs. In the opening scene, Nick Cannon raps in the song “Pray 4 My City”.
Rather than accompanying this with moving images like the aforementioned video, Lee uses text as image. The text is expressive, highlighting specific lyrics that he wants to emphasize and even changing the text size to orient our eye in a specific direction.
Die, faith, and hate are focal points, and because all of the lyrics are not depicted on the screen, Lee shows signification in these words to foreshadow what we are about to see on the screen.
Lee continues to use performative text in the following scene when we watch Chi-raq’s performance. Again, Lee uses text to emphasize the rivalry and the shootout that is about to unfold–referencing Cyclops and the Trojans in his lyrics and in the text as image.
And as the movie evolves, this structure is used to inform the audience of text conversations between Chi-raq and Lysistrata.
As opposed to the subtitles used in Crooklyn, the intentional aspect of the text serves to add rather than detract. I think that this is Lee’s way of acknowledging the advancing use of technology and how we respond to the explicit nature of text.