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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
Having only just cottoned on to the brilliance of Spotify, I have been listening to a whole load of music that I grew up with which, back in the 80's and 90's, meant rap. It was inescapable growing up, becoming more and more dominant in the UK charts until it became the musical giant it is today. What makes this extraordinary is that for a young white man growing up in rural England, I had no idea where Compton was, had never felt California Love and certainly didn't feel like f***ing the police! I had some interest in this when I spotted it in the TV schedules the other day but alas, it has proved to be a bit of a let-down. From the title, you'd expect a background history to the art of rapping (and it is an art, be in no doubt) and a examination into the technique behind it. What you actually get is a stream of legendary and contemporary artists speaking about their own experiences and free-styling for the cameras.
Director, co-producer and interviewer Ice-T takes us on a journey to uncover the secrets behind the global success that is rap. From its humble beginnings on the street to the entertainment colossus it is today, rap is first and foremost about the words - what they mean, how they rhyme and fit the beats. Each performer approaches their craft differently and brings something unique to the game. From iconic performers like Grandmaster Caz and Run DMC to todays mega-stars like Dr Dre, Eminem and Snoop Dogg, Ice-T examines what rap means to them, their influences and their secrets behind what are often incredibly complex lyrical compositions.
However, it's fair to say that Ice-T does stray somewhat from that mission statement. Sure, "Something From Nothing: The Art Of Rap" assembles an impressive array of stars to discuss the genre but often, they get side-tracked by being made to freestyle in front of the camera as though being made to justify their inclusion. In short, we learn very little other than most of them write down their lyrics, smoke a lot of weed to chill out and then proceed to spit it on the mike. But I wanted more than just famous names and faces - I wanted to know why rap has to be so confrontational (aside from a brief section discussing rap battles), the differences between East and West coast and what impact the untimely murders of two of rap's biggest names (namely, Tupac Shakur and the Notorious BIG) had on the genre. But the more violent aspects of rap are kinda skirted around, despite many of the artists openly discussing drug habits and gangland activities. In short, Ice-T deserves credit for attempting to tackle the subject matter - which does deserve attention - but in the end, he manages to produce nothing from something. A real shame.
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