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I'm someone who listened to nothing but Hip Hop and Rap music for nearly a decade, so I came into this documentary a little skeptical. I had seen Brian Robbins' dreadful, obsequious THE SHOW and wondered if a legitimate rap documentary could be made. And while RHYME & REASON isn't perfect, it's a pretty good survey of the vast landscape of the music, and anyone not familiar with the music might learn something from it and put aside certain previously-held notions.
The reason this film works (and THE SHOW didn't) is that, instead of interviewing a few rap stars and following them around their 'hoods and talking to them, director Peter Spirer talks to around 80 MCs (ie. rappers) and gets their opinions on a variety of topics that are meaningful to the rap community.
First the film examines some of the history of the music: who was first, where historic parties took place, etc. And we see right off the bat that a full gamut of hip hop artists will be consulted here; representatives from both coasts and different genres within rap music. This sheer volume of perspectives not only keeps the film moving at an exciting pace, but allows several views to come out.
After the history of the music, Spirer goes through a series of topics related to hip hop. He explores guns/violence, sex, cops, freestyling (ie. improvisational rapping), family, race and a gamut of topics. To be sure, he touches very lightly on each topic, not really going into any depth, but that is appropriate for this type of doc. This appears to be geared toward those who know a little about hip hop, not those immersed in it (I mean, they already know about most of what's in the film).
Another thing that I love is that the film covers about 1994-1997, just after hip hop's "Golden Age" but before it became the glitzy, mindless, staccato flesh-fest it is today. Some of the footage of rappers rapping (especially the Pharcyde's Fat Lip) reminded me of a day gone by when lyrical skills were the prime asset of a rap artist, instead of how nice someone's car is.
If you listened to rap in the mid-90s this is a nice throwback to those days, and if you know nothing about rap, this film could honestly educate you about the culture.
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