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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
I was quite looking forward to this film, having been away when it made its very brief appearance into UK cinemas. The film presents itself as a documentary on rap music in light of how massive it has become as a genre and, as a fan of some aspects of hip-hop, it was something that interested me. In reality it isn't actually a documentary so much as it is a very loose celebration of the genre and those involved in it from the start. Ice-T presents, directs and various other roles and the whole film is him chatting with fellow artists about their first introduction to the music, their thoughts on it, favourite lines and so on. There appears to be no real structure other than what has been put in afterwards and as a result the value of the film is limited.
If you are looking to learn about hip-hop as a genre of music and how it grew and developed then this is not the film to come to. Conversely, if you are already a fan of the music and know your history then this film will offer the same to you as it appears to have offered to Ice-T a chance to shoot the breeze with lots of artists all talking with passion about the music they love. This is where the film works best and it is not a good thing that it does so. Even fans of the music will struggle with some of the ways time is spent here because it feels padded at times and also some of the artists don't really have a great deal to say. The interviews are quite weak in terms of their direction and I did get the feeling that they had not been particularly well prepared for and that the film was relying on the subjects to just be good. Luckily some of them really are but of course this trust also means that at times the contributions aren't worth a great deal other than the name of the person involved.
As much as I love him, Q-Tip was one such example; it was great to have so many names involved but it would have been better to have had fewer and make more use of them. The credit for the many, many artists involved rests with Ice-T but unfortunately as presenter he is unable to draw the best from his subjects. Indeed he often seems too fond of himself and there are multiple slow-motion walking shots of him along with far too many obvious helicopter cityscapes. He is not bad per se, but at times he gets in the way of his own film and some of this selection of material seems to speak to his ego rather than the content of the film.
There is plenty here for older fans of the genre though, but this is different from it being a good film, because it really isn't that good. As a documentary it offers little and it really does need the viewer to already be in the right place to watch it. As a fan of the music and the culture, I liked it, but I would be lying if I said it were a good film in and of itself.
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