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SOMETHING FROM NOTHING: THE ART OF RAP is a feature length performance documentary about the runaway juggernaut that is Rap music. At the wheel of this unstoppable beast is the film's director and interviewer Ice-T. Taking us on a deeply personal journey Ice-T uncovers how this music of the street has grown to dominate the world. Along the way Ice-T meets a whole spectrum of Hip-Hop talent, from founders, to new faces, to the global superstars like Eminem, Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg and Kanye West. He exposes the roots and history of Rap and then, through meeting many of its most famous protagonists, studies the living mechanism of the music to reveal 'The Art Of Rap'. This extraordinary film features unique performances from the entire cast, without resorting to archive material, to build a fresh and surprising take on the phenomenon that is Rap. Written by
Unsubstantial and degrading or informally expressive?
One of the many interesting things about Ice T's directorial debut, Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap, is the explanation rapper Lord Jamar offers us as to how rap music came about. He tells us that growing up in the ghetto, there were obvious budget cuts and the public schools were woefully underfunded to begin with. He tells us that since instruments such as pianos and drums were taken away, the only instruments kids found were their own mouths and a record player. I'm positive those who idolize rap are not even aware of this.
Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap explores just what its title proclaims; the art and craft of a genre so controversial and so openly slandered by critics, the media, and sometimes, its own audience. Rap is a lawless, anarchic breed of music, often objectifying women and promoting reckless behavior. Or has it let itself evolve that way? Has "swag," stupidity, and cockiness been traded for a subtle and unique panache? Nowadays, you'd be hard-pressed to find a rap song lacking the word "hoe" in any way, shape, or form. It seems the men Ice T (Tracy Marrow) interviews almost are ashamed at what the genre has become and faithfully spend their time recalling when the genre was more about being misunderstood and underestimated rather than boastfulness and amoral behavior.
The key to success in the rap world is originality, we're told by Big Daddy Kane. If there's anything these men seem to have pioneered it's a unique sound and a unique outlook on life. Interviews with Afrika Bambaataa, Dr. Dre, Eminem, Grandmaster Caz, Ice Cube, MC Lyte, and Snoop Dogg take place as they offer their views on the movement and also don't hesitate to give us highly-skilled freestyles.
Some of the interviews are informative and eye-opening - some have the unfortunate disadvantage of being concise and loose. The first hour of this documentary gives those who came for the insights exactly what they want. The second hour gives those who came for the music what they want. This is where Ice T's documentary begins to slightly fall from its throne. While there is a goal in mind, some of the interviews teeter on the edge of being rambling and rather irrelevant. There comes a point where the quality and the speed of the freestyles is favored over actual information inside the whole rap movement.
But there is a wonderful devotion to the subject matter, regardless on what is chosen to be the primary focus in different scenes. Ice T doesn't seem to many as the one you'd want to direct a documentary on hip-hop and rap, but after the film was over, I couldn't really see anyone else doing it and doing it to the extent of what he has personally accomplished. He has proved to be not only knowledgeable on the medium but completely capable to delivering all the components of a film determined to explore the broad concept of rap.
The documentary seems to run a little too long for this sort of subject matter. Perhaps if you're a die-hard fan of rap, you won't believe so. As an insightful look at the medium, it manages to wander into that sort of territory, but never does it gridlock itself to that area. It too manages to incorporate freestyles, jokes, old memories, and extensive interviews all in its runtime. On second thought, maybe it isn't too long at all.
Starring: Ice T, Afrika Bambaataa, Big Daddy Kane, Dr. Dre, Eminem, Grandmaster Caz, Ice Cube, Lord Jamar, MC Lyte, and Snoop Dogg. Directed by: Ice T and Andy Baybutt.
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