Something From Nothing: The Art Of Rap [Review]
James A. George is a student of creative writing and a filmmaker. He went to the European film premiere in London on behalf of AboutToBlow, hosted by Ice-T and other hip hop legends.
Ice-T walks around the city. Ice-T then talks to an influential rapper. Said influential rapper then freestyles. Then loop. Ice-T’s directorial debut lacks imaginative story telling and the beautiful city views soon grow tiresome, but what is lacking is made up somewhat with his interviews. As a veteran rapper, his interviewees open up easily to their friend about their writing and history. It does become a bit of a checklist however. As we think we may near some interesting developments such as when KRS-One explains the origins of rap battling during slavery when suddenly the carpet is ripped from underneath us.
What we do get though is brilliantly brutal rhymes from the masters of the genre, oozing male violence, incorrectness and characteristic linguistic dexterity. The various approaches are very interesting and a budding lyricist could learn a lot about voice, structure and rhyme from most of the stars in this.
The film works best as an archive and perhaps should’ve been an episodic documentary instead. Nonetheless, it is insights into the art of these poets that make this rather one of a kind.
At another point in the film Rakim of Wu-Tang explains his writing process as Ice-T sits slack jawed and confused. This is essentially how Ice-T’s documentary presents itself. He talks with some of the earliest and key figures in rap, but somehow seems to be lost there, not quite understanding the effect these icons have had on the genre or the culture. The documentary may be about art but it certainly falls short of film art.
This film is for those who want to see a series of freestyles and short conversations with marvelous pioneers of the hip hop world, but don’t go in expecting discussion of the moral and social aspects of the art, nor its relation to other forms of black music such as jazz and the blues. What it does chose to explore, it explores fantastically, but what it chooses to ignore, albeit the movement generally, or any rappers outside of West and East coast USA (Deep South? Worldwide?) are sorely missed.