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Isild Le Besco,
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If you ever wanted to know what really goes on backstage, this is the definitive inside look - uncut and uncensored. Complete with on-stage performances you'll see an intimate view of what life is like at one of the biggest Rap Concert tours of all time. It shows life on the road, in hotels and off stage in a way you've never seen before. Written by
Unquestioning fans may enjoy it but it is lacking in value, insight or interest and heavy in cliché and rap stereotypes
In 1999 the Hard Knock Life tour was put together. A US tour of 54 shows featuring some of the biggest names in hip hop from Roc-a-Fella, Ruff Ryders, Wu-tang and others. The cameras follow the artists across the US and Canada both as they perform on stage and while they mess around and relax behind stage.
Filmed back in 1999 this film does have something for everyone whether they like it or not. For those who unquestioningly love the artists the film mixes live music with lots of backstage banter. In this regard it held my interest because I do actually quite like the music from the majority of artists and for many the late 1990's was them more or less at their best. The music is a bit fragmented but it still works and if you like the tracks then you'll be more or less satisfied. It is disappointing though that many of the artists are not given any reason to do anything with the backstage parts. Here and there we get interesting bits where they are being themselves and open to questions, or having convincing fights but mostly it is lots of messing around. This is not to say that this isn't fun because it is quite amusing and, for instance, fans of Meth and Red will see no problem with the fact that they spend most of them time on camera getting high and making the sort of comments that seem funny when you are high.
Conversely though, this element will mean that the film will still have "value" for those that don't like the artists and/or worry about the state of hip hop. I say this because by not having any considered interviews or contributions the film plays right into the hands of those who consider the whole shooting match is going to "hell in a handcart". Such viewers will find this film gives them all the evidence to prove themselves right because at times it is just a collection of clichés and rap stereotypes some of which are silly but some of which are concerning. The former comprises moments of freestyling and horseplay but the latter includes the glorification of drug taking and the attitude towards women. The former comes the territory and can be forgiven perhaps as society seems to be more and more relaxed about "minor" drugs but the misogynistic side of things is harder to take. It is weird because women and kids are all over the backstage but yet the only interaction (outside of Amil and Eve briefly) that the film shows with women are dominant and sexual.
Women have their tops lifted, are called b1tches and really play little part in the film or the music other than being objects to be used. I appreciate that the groupie thing is part of any big tour or artist but this film tends to highlight and celebrate this as part of a very hedonistic lifestyle which is a shame when you consider the phenonenom that is Def Jam, Roc-a-Fella etc. Recently Radio 4 did a programme on Jay-Z to look at his rise from nothing and the background to the ambitious creation of a generation of black millionaires and a world of new revenue. This film gets some ranting from Dash about hard work but there isn't anything more than that, which does a disservice to the people for their business sense and drive but perhaps does say more about the audience the makers expecting to get for their film nothing about hard work, developing skills, focusing on setting goals, loads about drugs, messing around, dice games etc. What does that tell you.
On the balance of things then, a reasonably so-so film that does very much depend on the viewer. For fans of the artists who just want to relax for 90 minutes this will do the job but for the casual fan or fan who wants more value, this won't hit the spot. The music is good and it has a bit of swagger to it generally but there are too few moments of insight or value outside of all the horseplay, clichés, stereotypes and noise.
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