(Air Date: Week Of 03/20/97)
"Rhyme and Reason", the documentary featuring Rap Music and Rap Musicians like Ice-T and Notorious B.I.G., starts in the beginning -- that would be 1974 in the Bronx, where needles scratching L.P.'s, breakdancers, and graffiti artists created hip, the clever, streetwise, expresson of people with no other means of getting their message out there.
Even if early Hip Hop was a Power Force, it was like a high-energy block party, without the money, the rivalries, and chilling death wish of West Coast Gangsta Rap. Hip hop Hop split from Rap in 1985, Crack hit the streets bigtime in '86, and Rap became Big Business and a musical force to be dealt with.
So Rap has two faces -- on one side, it's the high-energy, homegrown voice of people in the ghetto demanding recognition and respect, whose best lyrics and rhymes are real poetry. The other side is the sexist, violent, crime-obsessed attitude of Gangsta Rap, where many performers have been criminals and drug dealers.
Like Rapper Ice-T tells us: My earliest heroes were drug dealers with gold chains. Once you've tasted the adrenaline rush of crime, you're intoxicated forever. Any way you can't get out of the gang once you've been there, so I have to carry a gun.
"Rhyme and Reason" was made before Notorious B.I.G., was gunned down in Los Angeles, and, ironically, we watch him say he's learned "You can't sell drugs -- you'll eventually die or go to jail." But this film is mostly an explanation of why Rap came to be, and it leans over backwards to be upbeat, with perky female rappers like Salt 'n' Pepa saying that women can hold their own against the sexism, and with rappers saying that their success has offered hope to disenfranchised black Amercans.
Tupac Shakur is on film saying that Rap means he can help his family. Of course, he'd already been gunned down in Las Vegas when this film was made, and there's no denying the association of Rap culture with real-life violence, even if one would exist without the other. See "Rhyme and Reason" for insights into what's going on here, and especially if you like Rap music.
Copyright 1997 Mary Weems
"Movie Magazine International" Movie Review Index
"Movie Magazine International" Home Page