Directed and produced by Ice-T
The gritty graffiti covered buildings and streets of New York/the Bronx come alive in Ice-T's documentary, The Art of Rap, as he walks and talks about rap, the genre of music that grew from a niche to mass popularity. If you don't understand rap, as I do not, then this documentary should bring some light. As director, Ice-T writes a love song to the music. Strange that is is considered music, but in reality it is poetry over music and beats.
Our tour guide Ice-T is fairly thorough explaining how rap started, who the early players were, and why and where it started (In NYC). Ice-T interviews and has meaningfrul discussions with the originators in their abode, livingroom, front yard, restaurants and the streets. The originators and most noted are Melle Mel, Nas, Doug E. Fresh (the original beat boxer), Grandmaster Flash, Run DMC and others. If you ever wondered - "whatever happened to?" you find them in this documentary; at least the living rappers who are aged into their 40s and 50s.
The end credits have a screen of names who died early like Eazy E, Tupac and B.I.G.G.I.E. Some names will be familiar, but there are some that won't like Afrika Bambaattaa and RAZ. Although this movie was 2 hours long, another hour was needed to explain their names.
When did MosDef become Yasiim?
Hip-Hop , as explained by Yasiim is folk music. If you don’t understand it, you will not like it, and as one rapper said, his 80 year old grandmother does not understand it, therefore, she doesn’t listen to it. Simple. Each rapper, like singers have their styles. Some are spiritual lyricists and some rap complex lyrics. Of course, there's the gangster genre that caused such a big commotion and controversy with NWA and Ice-T himself, spouting "F**k the police." Eminem, for example, is a complex rapper, and given high compliments for being the only white rapper respected by all others for his MC skills .
Ice-T can match verse for verse every rap song much like Tony Bennett matching verse for verse every song that Barbara Streisand sang.
As an audience, I noticed that there were several things in common they had like:
- Style - They favor leather jackets (in the summer time),sports caps, or T-shirts, and dark colors (grays and blacks)
- A few of them have businesses; or have ascended from rap to acting and entertainment producer (Dr. Dre)
- Many of them are married, settled, and have children
- They all love what they do and the money is not important to them. Living comfortably is what matters.
- None of them seem to be starving, but making a good living producing and touring
- They write lyrics in their notebooks vs. electronic devices (a computer, Ipad.)
The language and code rappers speak is foreign to those who are not deep into urban culture; but the rappers understand each other. And at times, they say obscene words that to them is normal, but thoughtless to the general public. Rap has become so controversial (as if it hasn't always been) and violent that a recent Slate article noted that the writers' words and music are being used against them in court cases.
In both of these cases and many others, courts effectively deny rap the status of art. Rather than accept it as a kind of poetic fiction, they instead take it as a literal expression of reality. This is no doubt thanks in part to testimonials from rappers themselves, who, in order to be regarded as authentic, frequently claim that what they rap about is a life they've experienced firsthand. Judges and juries don't necessarily know that this is as much marketing strategy as it is reality, an ignorance that prosecutors either share or exploit.
The rappers, specifically NAS, try to defend the genre against the elitists and straight folk who condemn it. Old school rap is romanticized, but new school rap is reviled.
The overhead shots of New York/The Bronx are mesmerizing. The whole borough is covered in artwork on the buildings and store fronts. This movie is more educational than expected, and you will walk away with a better understanding or still shaking your head in confusion.
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Movie Mood: Feel-good Movie
Viewing Method: Other
Film Completeness: Looked complete to me.
Worst Part of this Film: Duration