At the beginning of Mir Fontane’s song “Down By The River,” there’s a split second when you don’t know what to think. “Down by the river and the hanky panky” is not exactly how you expect a hip hop song to start. But these words are soon followed by the lines, “My bro got shot by the bank-de-panky.”
“I want to give off the sense of uncertainty,” Fontane says. “Because you don’t know what’s about to happen.”
MASS APPEAL’s new documentary Camden: A Child Invincible follows Fontane as he gives a tour of the New Jersey city where he grew up and still lives. Just five years ago, the murder rate in Camden was the highest of anywhere in the entire United States, and even today, the specter of death and danger is always present.
Interviewed in front of the Northgate Apartments, a huge Section 8 tower, Fontane tells a grisly story about a murder in his building involving a father and his child, and as he’s talking to the camera, somebody throws a rabbit out of a window.
Lately, there have been news reports that Camden’s crime rate is decreasing. But numbers can be finessed in ways that reality cannot. Fontane says that after the city’s police literally gave up and quit, only to be replaced by Guardian Angels and then militarized police, he hasn’t seen that much of a difference. “You still got that ‘gotta look over your shoulder twice’ feeling,” he says.
Watch the full documentary of Camden: A Child Invincible above, and check out Mir Fontane’s latest album, also called Camden. He’s telling dark stories in creative ways on the path to the light.