Something From Nothing: The Art Of Rap
- Genre: Documentary
- Cert: 15A
- Details: US / 106mins
What's this? No Digable Planets? Typical to form where I discover something long after its peak period has come and gone, I only recently got into hip-hop. So you can imagine my disappointment when in the midst of Public Enemy, NWA, Wu Tang, Snoop Dog, Cypress Hill, Afrika Bambaataa, Melle Mell, Run DMC, A Tribe Called Quest and anyone else you can remember, that the New York trio are not to be found. Saying that, Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, De La Soul and Arrested Development are noted by their absence too. Odd.
Co-directed and presented by Ice T, Something From Nothing: The Art Of Rap investigates how MCs and rappers (the difference between both is also explained) go about their rhymes minus music backing. Opening with Brand Nubian's Lord Jamar first foray into rapping (or is it MCing?), Ice T moves from New York to Detroit to LA and everywhere in between to interview gods of the scene.
Where it works best is when Ice T explores how the art of MCing (or is it rapping?) came about (although the Jamaican art of toasting is never brought up) and why, when skilled black musicians ruled in soul, blues and jazz, have black people stopped playing instruments. Some venture that they weren't allowed so, as Lord Jamar says, 'we turned the record player into an instrument.' Some interviewees are guarded about the craft, still wary of looking cool in front of the camera, but for the most part Ice T finds the guys (and girls) in good form. Cypress Hill's Real-B is honest about his voice and how he had to tweak it or he was out of the group; and KRS One's story of how he got into hip-hop is hilarious. Shorn of the music, which is used only as an episode break as Ice T moves from city to city, the craft and skill become ever more obvious. The different styles and themes – the political, the social, the personal, the spiritual – are also explored. And Kanye West's performance is nothing short of brilliant.
Where it works least is when grand sweeping statements are made: 'Hip hop didn't invent anything but it reinvented everything,' which isn't saying anything. Nas bemoans the lack of respect hip-hop and rapping gets. No respect? Isn't it a hip hop culture we're in? Didn't the president of the United States reference Jay Z (also missing) on live television? Come on, Nas. Come on now. Despite being a documentary on the craft and finding new and interesting ways to deliver what you want to say, it's a one-note style with Ice T asking the same questions what are your influences and have you any advice? and is guilty of overstaying its welcome.
Originality is what every MC strives for, and it's the one piece of advice that's all here offer. With every MC of the boasting nature, though, wouldn't originality be the opposite of that? To that end, I like to introduce my alter ego, MC Modest. I hope my debut album, I Ain't All That, will reach the heady heights of number 12 in the charts and will include the minor hit singles I Rock Da Mic (Sometimes) and Your Lyrics Are Better Than Mine (feat. Snow).
Review by Gavin Burke | 15:01 | Friday 20th July 2012 | Movie Review
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