Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap
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Index 17 reviews in total 

17 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

A solid documentary

Author: teddunsten from United States
12 February 2012

This was a pretty good documentary, lots of nice insights and interviews...

I checked it out because I have that book which is similar, "How to Rap: The Art and Science of the Hip-Hop MC" which came out a few years ago and they interviewed many of the same rappers for that. In my opinion, that book goes into a lot more detail than this documentary, because it's wall-to-wall quotes and a lot more subjects are covered, but it was cool seeing a documentary that touched on some of the same topics.

Where it lacks actual extended discussion on writing rhymes, this doc makes up for it with quite a few interesting moments on screen -- most of the rappers kick a verse or two and they often go on tangents and happen upon some interesting topics even if they aren't really about the "craft" of rap, as the title suggests.

Well worth watching if you're a hip-hop fan, and a nice companion to the "How To Rap" book.

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11 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Chix Chat on Film Review: A Hip Hop hooray fun ride.

8/10
Author: Emma Dinkins (emmadinkins@chixchatonfilm.com) from Texas, United States
15 June 2012

The Art of Rap is a documentary of the evolution of Hip Hop and the artists who were instrumental in creating an urban musical revolution. This film did exactly what a documentary should do, it provided a record of the pioneers of this art form through an up close and what felt like a personal conversation with these artists. Ice-T traverses the Big Apple as he talks candidly with East Coast artists like Rakim, Chuck D, Q-Tip and my personal favorite Doug E Fresh, who by the way is still phenomenal with the art form of Beat Box. Yes, I heard it here from the man himself that he is the originator of Beat Box, which he defines as an accompaniment to the Master of Ceremony. This film was educational in that I learned if you are not an MC you are just a rapper. Rappers come and go, MCs endure because they are lyricists. Apparently, Mos Def is no longer Mos Def, which sounds so much cooler than Yasiin. When Xzibit was being interviewed I had to recover my thoughts of him being an MC, I couldn't shake Pimp My Ride, but that just made me think of how far he and others like Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg and Ice T have come in the entertainment industry. I found it to be profound when Ice T spoke to Eminem after Red Man had given him his props to say that one of the greatest of all times is a white cat. It is true Eminem is one of the best. I was a bit disappointed in the fact that only one female MC was featured in the East, Salt and only one in the West, MC Lyte. I thought that Eve could have been counted, but maybe she's considered part of the new school. Salt and MC Lyte were both poised and articulate, did a bit of a freestyle as did the Guys but did not delve into the standard language of the Hip Hop culture that being the colloquialisms and the profanity. The film is not yet rated, but every conversation included: fork, beach, sheet, 4Q and knicker (figure it out). When it does get a rating it will be at minimum an 'R', just for the language alone. This film is not for the prudish or young children, but anyone who grew up listening to these artists will love the on screen journey. It's not for everybody but I liked it and am giving it a green light.

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12 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

That's a Rap!

6/10
Author: Dharmendra Singh from Birmingham, England
14 August 2012

Hip-Hop heavyweight Tracy Marrow, better known as Ice-T, travels from the East to the West coast to interview dozens of rap's finest to provide a 360° perspective on the art of rap, and establish why this subversive underground movement has quickly become the most lucrative musical genre in the world.

Many can rhyme words; few can do it with panache. To prove this, we're treated to several tantalising tongue-twisters from the likes of Eminem, Kanye West, Nas and Mos Def (now known as Yasiin), although some legendary MCs let themselves down by delivering feckless freestyles.

Rappers being rappers, they all claim credit for being the first to do this or that. No one really bothers to answer the question at the heart of this documentary. I wanted the history and truth about rap. Afrika Bambaataa and KRS-One – two from the Old School – deliver knowledgeable insights (slave-era camaraderie prefigured battle rapping, the turntable was turned into an instrument), but after a while the contributions become monotonous, irrelevant, uninteresting and surprisingly, given that these are purported wordsmiths, inarticulate. Ice-T becomes more interested in kicking back with his homies while they smoke unfeasibly big joints and rap along to classic hip-hop tracks.

Ice-T promises follow-ups to his directorial debut, for which I have a piece of advice: When cats like these end their sentences with 'Nah mean', i.e. 'Do you know what I mean?', for our sake, please find out what they mean.

www.moseleyb13.com

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13 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

The ultimate Rap doc

10/10
Author: jh-232 from Los Angeles
18 April 2012

I saw this at a screening with about 600 people and the crowd went mental. The crowd was really mixed which goes to show you rap is not just for black kids anymore. The fact that Ice is friends with everyone makes a big difference as you can tell that the artist are being 100% real. The overall production value is top notch and the music is mind blowing. If you have never seen free styling seeing KRS and Eminem do it will blow your mind. Another thing that was cool was Kanye's interview, I know there is a lot of negativity about him but in this movie he comes off super humble and sincere. This is a doc that is best seen in a theater as the crowd makes it really fun and seeing these guys HUGE on a screen is fantastic.

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6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Needs the viewer to be there already

Author: bob the moo from United Kingdom
29 September 2012

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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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Unsubstantial and degrading or informally expressive?

8/10
Author: Steve Pulaski from United States
30 September 2012

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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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Check it out

Author: clarence-jones07 from Chi-Town
22 June 2012

It's funny, when I saw this, I too immediately thought, "hey, that's like that How To Rap book!" so it's nice to see another reviewer thought the same thing as me.

I agree with that reviewer that the book is more thorough and complete when looking at the craft, so that remains the go-to resource, but this movie is great for other things.

The verses that the rappers recite are mostly great (though I prefer when rappers do freestyles over beats, not a big fan of the "here's... my... really... slow... acapella... rap... so you... can hear... all the... words"), and it's cool seeing Ice-T just have relaxed conversations with rappers he knows.

It's actually best when it veers away from the craft and just goes into funny stories and interactions between Ice-T and the person he's talking to.

If you're a rap fan, definitely go look this movie up, you'll find something to like in it!

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Not quite 99 problems, but...

6/10
Author: mrmetox from London, England
4 January 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Biz Markie, Talib Kweli, Meth, RZA, GZA, Ghost, MOP, Busta, Lauren Hill, Slick Rick, Outkast, EPMD, Everlast, LL, Jay Electronica, Lupe, Jay-Z, Eric B, Beastie Boys, Flav, Ren, Too Short, Boo Yaa Tribe, De La, Jungle Brothers, Das EFX, DMX, King Sun, King Tee, The Roots. These are just some of the names that don't feature in this wasted opportunity.

I love Ice T but he's missed a trick here in my opinion, really not taking in some people who for me would be glaringly obvious to speak to about the origins and art of Hip Hop and how it has grown and shaped the genre.

In addition it's almost criminal for me that he spoke to people like Rakim, Ice Cube, Chuck D etc for literally seconds, while indulging others who are arguably less deserving for ages while they freestyle, pontificate in stupid faux-philosophical mode and reel off almost entire songs from their back catalogues. Not disrespecting Kanye but did he warrant a full song, when time might have been better spent talking to Erick Sermon, Black Thought, Mike D, or Big Boi, for example?

Also, not too many (if any) mentions of the impact made by Guru, MCA, B.I.G, JMJ, etc.

The interviews were also pretty lame and cosmetic, and had little in the way of structure. Many simply pandered to ego, rather than unearthing some fascinating insight. Surely more time with Chuck D & Rakim would have produced this. Or delving deeper into the inception of NWA with Cube, rather than listening to Snoop offer cringe worthy nonsense dressed up as prophetic advice. Was really looking forward to this but ultimately felt a bit let down. I guess there would always be someone left out that would cheese people off, but this should have been much better.

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4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Lame don't bother

3/10
Author: steve-myer from Los Angeles
19 December 2012

What could have been very interesting turned out to be a wasted 2 hours. Ice T had access to so many great rappers, but he failed to do anything with it. He didn't tell a story, the history or give Rap any perspective it played in revolutionizing music or culture whatsoever. What he did do, was basically just shoot the breeze with his buddies on TV. And when he chose to do it on a busy New York street corner he got upset with anyone who stopped by to say hello... really? Ice T is barely an actor and for sure he's not a good interviewer. He ought to stick to what he excels at: Rap music; nothing more, nothing less.

Don't waste your time with this one.

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Nothing From Something - 59%

6/10
Author: Benjamin Cox from Hampshire, England
23 August 2014

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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