Friday, August 22, 2008

InstaRapFlix 11: Beef

It's been a minute since I've done one of these (at least compared to how fast I expected to churn these out), but here I am with another one. Tonight I watched Beef (Netflix rating: 1 & 1/2 stars) a roughly 90 minute doc about... beef. As in contention, not the cow meat. :P

As the annoyingly long opening sequence rolled on (I recommend skipping ahead about five minutes), I had a bad feeling about this one... we were gonna lots of footage of rappers at their most embarrassingly ignorant and hammy coverage of pop rap star he said/she said-type junk. And the narration from Ving Rhames is pretty cheesy; but apart from that, this film came a lot deeper and smarter than I was expecting.

First of all, it takes it all the way back. They cover Kool Moe Dee versus Busy Bee, and both Dee and Bee are on hand to tell the story in their own words. And Krs, Kane, and all these other rappers are talk about it in a knowledgeable, historical perspective. They've got footage of the event... everything.

Then they cover Krs versus MC Shan, again all in their own words, with Marley and others there, too. It covers the basics for new school head s who have no idea who's who, but also gets detailed enough to keep the fans who already know all about it interested.

They go into Ice Cube splitting from NWA, and everything that lead to (Dre moving to Death Row, etc)... they've got archival interview footage from back when it was happening, everything. I was impressed.

And the film, which goes in chronological order, also successfully illustrates how beef transformed from the friendly competition of MC battles to stupid, violent fights like Tru Life's issues with Mobb Deep, and of course 'Pac and Biggie, etc. They even include the press's role in building the east vs west beef into the ridiculousness it became, interviewing Vibe editors, etc.

Towards the end, it does slip down some, becoming partially what I feared at the beginning... more stories of rappers glorifying fights (stay tuned after the credits to hear one photographer go on and on about some stupid fight for like fifteen minutes or some equally crazy length of time). And another problem is that the second half suddenly becomes the 50 Cent show. Now, don't get me wrong... he belongs in this film. Nothing against the guy, and he's certainly been involved in enough beef to warrant inclusion... but it's obvious the film dwells on every little thing he's ever been involved with and gives him heaps of interview time purely because he was the biggest star when the DVD came out. I mean, heck... just look at the cover. It starts out interesting; he has a fun anecdote about Jay-Z taking it to him after he released "How To Rob" (with footage from the event as well). But after a while it just got damn sick of hearing this dude, and his stories got pettier and pettier

So, yeah. Not an amazing film as a whole... but there's a lot of quality coverage, with a lot of interesting artists (I couldn't even count everybody they got on camera) from all time periods telling their stories in their own words. Definitely worth the view for any hip-hop fan.

Now, there's three sequels (or maybe there's even more, but Netflix just has the three)... My first instinct is that this is just going to be more of the worst of part 1. But hey, I was pleasantly surprised by this entry, so I'll definitely be giving those sequels a shot (each and every one of 'em), and report back. Watch this space.


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