Saturday, January 29, 2011

InstaRapFlix #31 The Industry

InstaRapFliz is back, baby! It's been a long time, but I figured we needed some more movie reviews around here, so here we go. Today's entry is The Industry (Netflix rating: 2 out of 5 stars). Netflix doesn't tell you this, but apparently this is a part of Russell Simmons' Hip-Hop Speaks Series. Other videos available in this series include, uh... nothing. Hmm. That isn't a good sign, is it?

So, okay, what is this? It's not just some video-taped lecture by Russell Simmons (though, of course, he's featured in this); it's a little documentary that's ostensibly about the managers, executives and label politics behind the scenes of modern-day hip-hop. One of the reasons I say "little documentary" is because this runs just an hour long, which isn't really feature length. Anyway, it thrusts us into the middle of Outkast's drama with Arista over their Speakerboxxx/ Love Below double album as scene from the PoV of their manager, Blue. The whole first 15 minutes is basically just a short bio on Blue, then the second is on Ludacris' manager, Chaka Zulu. Then we come back to Blue for two minutes before going to Def Jam record exec Tina Davis. She gets a little less then ten minutes, and then we're onto a long interview with Kanye West. And finally, we're back to Blue for the remainder. If that sounds sloppy, it is.

This DVD seems to just be a patchwork of owned footage melted into one shapeless blob and sold as a single DVD documentary. But the good news is, much of the footage is compelling and interesting. I mean, the Kanye interview is kinda boring and self-aggrandizing, but for the most part, it's all interesting little bits. They just don't add up to a movie. The editors seem to have tried in post... MC Lyte narrates the whole thing, and I guess the idea is her narration would smooth over the bumps and make things feel a little more coherent. It doesn't though. She just winds up being seriously over-used, futily dolling out info to set up scenes and segues to bridge them. And the way the movie keeps coming back to Blue seems like an attempt to give this movie a consistent through-line... not an actual consistent through-line, but an attempt at one. I actually think it would've been better if they just left all of his stuff together as one longer piece, and just stuck the rest on as DVD extras or something.

In fact, just a documentary about Blue and Speakerboxxx would've been a much stronger film, but I guess they figured that would be harder to market. So, yeah, instead we get half of a documentary about Blue, chopped up and padded with a bunch of footage lying around the Def Jam offices. Why do take a long detour into the office of Tina Davis? The answer is obviously because she works for Def Jam, and this is a Def Jam DVD. Why does everything stop for ten minutes so Kanye can talk about himself? Cross-promotion. He's a big name who might helpfully sell a few more of these DVDs, and he's a Def Jam artist, so maybe the spotlight will help sell some more Kanye CDs, too.

Bottom line? This movie is too half-assed (again, it feels like the salvaging of one or several failed projects) and too much of a blatant commercial to rank as much of a film. But it's short, tightly edited and some of the segments are genuinely interesting. So don't buy this DVD - you'll watch it once and put it away feeling ripped off. For a free, Netflix instant watch though? It's worth throwing onto your que.

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