One of the things that makes Raising Kanan one of the strongest contenders in the Power universe is the writer’s niche for replicating the day-to-day realities of living in NYC ghettos in the early ’90s. At the beginning of the episode, Raq, while standing idle in front of the elevator, is reminded by an elder who has lived in the housing projects for forty years that the elevator doesn’t work. For New Yorkers, it is no secret that the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) has struggled to maintain public housing’s ailing elevators. In some extreme cases, elderly and disabled tenants are trapped in their homes for extended periods. Though the older woman, who appears to be at least in her 70s, makes it downstairs, her movement is quite slow. With her unit on the seventh and eighth floor, Raq is now forced to act out the episode’s title and literally “Level Up.” We hear 50 Cent’s narration, which adds another layer to the scene as he offers viewers a lesson on the importance of moving forward — “If you ain’t going up, you sliding down.”
Upset about the construction Raq has begun in the unit, Frank, the building inspector, attempts to school her on what her “projects rights” are. He makes an accurate assumption about Raq when he says “clearly, you never lived in public housing before.” Though she resides in the heart of South Jamaica, she lives in a house, a nice one at that. Even in the hood, there are levels.
Life in Baisley or 40 projects is quite different from the cozy setting Raquel has set up for her and Kanan. Project living often includes pissed-in hallways, broken elevators, loud neighbors, and rude-ass building inspectors. Immediately, Frank comes off aggressive and sleazy. But by now, we know how Raq operates. Frank is in her way, so this means he’s either going to cooperate (by accepting a bribe) or die. When he meets with her after hours to “discuss” the construction, Raq comes with cash, but Frank assaults Raq and grabs her by the throat (with intentions on raping her), so she takes him down with a mallet to the head.
In keeping true to how the drug dealers in the ’90s addressed “problems,” Marvin finishes the job, two shots of a nail gun into Frank’s forehead. If Marvin don’t do anything right, he at least knows how to execute a murder for his sister.
Famous prepares for his upcoming showcase, which Lou is financially sponsoring. He and Kanan employ an old-school marketing tactic by placing paper flyers on the hoods of cars. Lou is serious about his investment and shares with Raq that he doesn’t want there to be any drug transactions the night of the event. To make sure all of his bases are covered, he pays a visit to Unique and relays the same message to him. During their interaction, Unique plays nice by pretending to be on the same page. He promises Lou there would be no drugs or violence. His promise is short-lived, though. As soon as Lou leaves, Unique goes into a rage, offended by the audacity of Lou and Raq to make such requests. He immediately puts a plan in motion to shoot the event up.
At the event, Lou has tight security measures in place — no weapons allowed. Everyone from Brooklyn and Queens are in attendance; even Jukebox’s girlfriend Nicole made her way from the well-to-do Upper Eastside. Seeing the early success of the night makes Raq proud of her baby brother, but the packed venue causes Jukebox to be nervous. Unable to keep anything down, she locks herself in the bathroom. Nicole suggests Kanan to speak with her (she knows her girlfriend best), and it works. Kanan reminds Jukebox how talented she is. The two make up and their conversation eventually settle Jukebox’s nerves.
During their performance, after talking a bunch of smack, Famous misses his cue. Seeing that her music collaborator and friend is about to make a fool out of himself, Jukebox takes control of the situation. With confidence, she engages the crowd until Famous snaps out of it and has the DJ restart the track. While performing, Kanan realizes Famous’s lyrics sound all too familiar. He took actual events from Kanan’s life and placed them in the song. It’s not yet clear if this will impact their friendship.
Worrell and Scrappy, Unique’s boys, break into the club (remember, no weapons allowed through the front door) because their job tonight is to take Lou-Lou down at the music showcase. When Lou-Lou’s eyes lock with Scrappy, he immediately causes a Southside vs. Brooklyn brawl, and everyone in the club gets involved. With the help of Marvin, Lou-Lou escapes. Worrell blames Scrappy for Lou-Lou getting away and accuses him of being Raq’s snitch. I’m with Worrell. In my recap of episode five, I, too, wondered if Raq set Scrappy up to spy on Unique. Episode six still doesn’t make that fully clear, but one thing that is clear, whether Scrappy joined Unique’s team on his own or not, he still has love for Raq’s team.
In this episode, each character experiences love differently. Famous gets a blow job from a teenage groupie at the venue after the big brawl. Meanwhile, Jukebox and Nicole are still on a high from the night’s excitement and Jukebox’s performance. While riding the Q6 bus to the subway, Nicole reminds Jukebox how much she loves her. Apparently, Kanan loves Davina as much as Nicole loves Jukebox. He goes to Davina’s house after the showcase and loses his virginity to her. The lead-up before arriving at Davina’s bedroom is the perfect amount of romance needed for a teenager. Symphony, however, isn’t as lucky as Kanan, Jukebox, and Famous. After finding out he picked up Kanan from the precinct, Raq cusses him out, borderline threatens him, and ends their relationship. Her emotional decision further proves that she feels threatened by the thought of someone else coming between her and her son.
This brings us to the real father, Detective Howard. With his leukemia diagnosis, Howard’s days are numbered. He takes a day off from work, something his captain says he’s never done during his 20-year career, leaving Burke to fend for herself. She doesn’t do too bad either. The night of the showcase, Raq leaves a message with Burke to relay to Howard: “The most dangerous place to be is between a mother and a child.”
Now that he knows he has a son, Detective Howard visits his doctor to see if this new information can change anything for him. They talk about Kanan in hypothetical terms, and she says that it’s possible that his son could be a “half match.” Good news, right? Nope! The doctor adds since his hypothetical son is under 18 years old, his legal guardian would have to grant permission. As of now, it would be a cold day in hell before Raq tells Kanan the truth about his father, let alone allow him to undergo a procedure to save a man he doesn’t know. Let’s also not forget, a man who is a sworn enemy of South Jamaica.
Speaking of enemies, Raq has messed up big time by getting on Deen’s bad side. He no longer trusts her. During a visit with her connect, he informs her that Unique will pay a 20 percent premium to secure both his and Raq’s supply. She also learns that Deen killed his security guard after discovering that he was making side deals with Raq. Losing her connect places Raquel in an undesirable situation. She has a back-up plan, though. She makes a visit to the bodega owner’s wife. Lou-Lou had previously told her that the wife has a cousin in Washington Heights with an international connect. The wife warns Raq that her husband, Gabriel, doesn’t get along with her cousin. Each time Raq and her crew visit their new stash house, Gabriel’s wife has visible bruises that indicate he is abusing her. During this visit, her bruises are far more apparent. Raq and Gabriel’s wife are strikingly different. One is bold, the other is meek. One is a fighter, the other has been victimized. It’s going to be interesting to see if she’s able to succeed in connecting Raq to her cousin, and in general, the new dynamic between Raq and Gabriel now that she has involved his wife. (Something tells me Gabriel is in the way and will end up like Frank.)
Marvin assembles his recruits to start selling drugs at a gas station off the highway, an idea that Kanan suggested to him. But since Raq told everyone to stay away from Kanan, Marvin, always in search of more responsibility, takes matters into his own hands. It’ll be interesting to see if this plan under Marvin’s leadership works. But because he is a consistent fuckup, something tells me Marvin’s gas station set up is going to cause more trouble.
For now, trouble has shown up on Raq’s doorstep. After Kanan sneaks in after his night with Davina, Scrapy is dropped off at Raq’s house by Unique’s crew, bloody, battered, and missing an eye. Yet again, Raising Kanan closes out with a strong ending.