Monday, June 9, 2008

InstaRapFlix 5: Hip-Hop Laws of Success

Hip-Hop Laws of Success (Netflix rating: 2 stars) is the kind of unwanted birthday present kids get when their aunts and uncles find out they like rap music. It plays like an infomercial, with Russell Simmons (according to the opening credits, it's part of his "Higher Self Series") and a a generic hostess seated opposite him, asking him set-up softball questions. Every once in a while, they cut to a 20-something in the audience nodding along to the wisdom or smiling at the anecdote.

And that's the body of the film: this one short interview between the two of them. But they intersperse it with clips of Simmons' Rap Summit footage, which is where all those famous rappers whose names are on the box enter into it (I also suspect it means none of them had to be paid). And there's also interview clips with one or two industry types (Lyor Cohen, some people from Violator management, and somebody from Cash Money Records).

Now, from the title, you might expect this is the equivalent to those "how to make money at real estate" infomercials, with Simmons and the guys sharing their secrets of how they became successful in the hip-hop industry. But really this is the equivalent of those "power of positive thinking" infomercials, full of bland and clichéd inspirational messages that you could just as easily write yourself. "Believe in yourself," "have faith in God" (a lot of this is very religious, which will surely put some people off), "help others" and "work hard." That's everything; but they make that last for the length of the film by repeating the same notions over and over.

On the plus side, it's another short one (why are all these hip-hop films so short?) - well under an hour, including the credits. Also its heart is in the right place... meant to inspire kids to be self-empowered and go out and get rich (and spiritual). It's not that the message is bad; it's just so painfully trite.

Interestingly, the closing credits list an "estimated net worth" for each of the celebrities featured in the film, sometimes also naming their companies and endorsements. Example (actually, the only one that doesn't specify "estimated net worth"):

"Ice Cube
Director, actor, writer, producer and composer
Feature films: 'Boyz 'n The Hood', 'Friday' franchise, 'Barbershop' franchise and 'Are We There Yet?'
Estimated $170 million in gross film revenues
Estimated 30 million albums sold"

According to Netflix, this came out in 2006, but it must be older than that because Master P, Wyclef Jean and the Cash Money Millionaires are presented as being the pinnacles of the industry. I have a feeling this DVD is marketed more towards high schools to show to their students rather than private consumers, but it's available... even as a Netflix instant view.

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