Last night we attended the European premiere to Ice T’s directional debut, Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap. At a time where hip hop, or more specifically, bubblegum rap, seems to be taking over the mainstream charts and airwaves, it was nice to be taken back to meet the heavyweights who helped shape the genre when it first emerged. And rather than choosing to focus on the money, the girls or lavish lifestyles many of us associate with rappers nowadays, in Ice T’s “love letter to hip hop” the focus was given in this documentary to the importance of words.
During his conversations with the likes of Grandmaster Caz, Treach and Eminem, Ice T reminded us of the skill that is required in order to become a good MC and we were given insight to how some of the greatest rappers organise their rhymes. Judging by the different techniques and sometimes quirky methods some of them adopted, many of the rappers interviewed managed to not only illustrate how rap can and should be viewed as an art form but they also exemplified how the craftsmanship and mechanics of putting rhymes together can be regarded as practically being a science.
The best parts of the movie came when each artist interviewed was given a platform to showcase their talent and drop a little freestyle. Personally, standout performances that had me gripped and my ears keen came from Grandmaster Caz, Immortal Technique, Joe Budden and Kanye West (who spat a furious rap and practically stole the show!) Snoop did a good job of raising a few laughs with some of his replies to the questions Ice T put to him but later on gave a surprisingly tender answer when asked about what advice he would give to anyone wanting to become a rapper.
It was quite nice to see all the artists come together in order to vocalise their love, appreciation and passion for their art. Many of them also shared with us what their own favourite raps were and while the movie paid homage to many of the greats and did a lot to honour the hip hop legends featured, it was a little disappointing that the “Dirty South” didn’t get a mention and was massively overlooked. An interview with Andre 3000 for example would have gone down an absolute treat and in my opinion; you can’t consider a documentary such as this one to be a definitive piece of work or complete representation of hip hop when key individuals or areas have been left out. Ice T claims that he only approached and included in the movie, artists that he knew personally or had in his phonebook and indeed this may be the case but as a hip hop fan, I do not feel it is a good enough reason or excuse when putting together a film as important as this one.
That said however, the intimate discussions and classic soundtrack coupled with breath taking aerial views of New York, L.A and Detroit all made for fantastic viewing and I would say that The Art of Rap is well worth going to see. Just note that if you expect to leave the cinema fully schooled on more hard hitting issues that are often posed, such as rap and its negative effect on youth or you want to see topics relating to hip hop, women and misogyny to be addressed, you will not find it here and will be sorely disappointed. If you take the film for what it is however: a display of your favourite rapper’s (or favourite rapper’s favourite rapper!) poetic expression and abilities as a wordsmith, you will enjoy it thoroughly and find yourself Googling certain names when you get home in order to hear more from them.
The Q&A session with Ice T, Melle Mel, Raekwon & Chuck D after the screening:
The official trailer:
Released: 19 July 2012
My rating: 4/5