Sunday, June 22, 2008

InstaRapFlix 8: Female American Rap Stars

Man, you know I can't stay away from these hip-hip DVDs. Well, last night I kicked back and watched Female American Rap Stars (Netflix rating 1.5 stars). This is intrinsically different, for both good and ill, from my first all-female InstaRapFlix entry, Queens of Hip Hop. Where Queens breezed through as many female MCs as possible to build up an impressive roster at the cost of sacrificing content, FARS lingers on its subjects. But, what it loses is all these interesting women and the chance to hear what they had to say. It doesn't help that this film is quickly dated (judging my who they cover and what they promote, it seems to've been filmed around 2003)... this film chases the the ladies with the biggest records at the time and treats them like towering hip-hop icons (no-hit wonder Ms. Jade, who had a record deal with Universal at the time, is featured pretty heavily), and now most of them already seem to have completely left the hip-hop culture's consciousness.

It starts out with its weakest segment, on Eve. She's interviewed, and we also get a few clips taken from interviews with other artists (DMC, Lyte, DJ Quik, and one of her producers) where they're asked about her. Well, we quickly find this film's Achilles heel: all the questions are soft-ball "is it hard being so talented"-type questions, and all anybody does is toss compliments back and forth about each other. Every time the doc shifts focus to another artist, we go to an interview clip where Iceman, our host, asks him to say what comes to mind when he says their name, and each time he only says, "queen!" Her producer says, "I remember back when Eve was signed to Aftermath," and I kinda woke up. Are we gonna talk about her time on Aftermath: why she switched labels, what it was like working with Dre, etc? Nope. That the fact he remembered when Eve was on Aftermath was all he had to say, and we move on. This entire segment is full of intercutting and jump cuts, trying to make something out of nothing, because nobody ever has anything to say.

It picks up a bit when we move on to Missy Elliot, if only because she has more than six words to share. She's interviewed on the set of one of her music videos, and one of the most fun parts is when they ask the little girls who dance in it about their experience working with Elliot. But again, it's like they only had five to ten minutes with anybody they interviewed and had to move on to let the next interviewer get in... you can even hear a manager yell at them, "you've gotta wrap it up!" during one of the questions.

So, yeah, they're clearly grabbing whoever they see at a few press spots, which kind of works... Spinderella is DJing at Lyte's show so she gives a few words, Vinnie of Naughty by Nature is at Latifah's party, Krs-One is at Lyte's event... Even Robin Leach and Steve Guttenburg(!) are available at one of the locations to briefly praise Latifah. ...Queen Latifah herself never gets in front of their cameras, though.

This film tries and occasionally succeeds - it helps that they ran into Lyte two different times, and even got a little concert footage of her to cut to (although they wind up taking it too far by cutting to the same single song WAY too many times). But for the most part it just proves that even with the best of intentions, you can't make a quality, substantive movie out of press junket interviews (which is what they are). A quick Youtube video? Sure. But a movie? These guys just never got the content.

So, that's it. Nice interview of another mediocre but not terrible hip-hop DVD, right? No! There's still another third of this movie to go. A third that has absolutely nothing to do with our female American rap stars. Heck, it's not even shot in America!

In one of the most shamelessly self indulgent turns I've ever seen in a film, our host Iceman makes the rest of the movie about himself and his rap career (apparently he has one). He's booked a show in Moscow, of all places, and suddenly this changes into an on-the-road tour doc about his show in Russia. There's not a lot to show, though... we see a little footage of him on stage, him flying first class, and he spends the rest of the time getting the locals to sell him cigars or freestyle for the camera in Russian. ...Weird!

So, if this write-up feels kind of sloppy and muddled to you, then you're beginning to get a sense of what the viewing experience is like. Bottom line: whatever you do, don't buy this DVD! But... if you're a big fan of Missy Elliot or MC Lyte specifically, it's worth clicking on for the instant view.

No comments:

Post a Comment