Wednesday, August 21, 2013

InstaRapFlix #36: F.E.D.S.

What? I brought InstaRapFlix back? Yeah, at least temporarily. I've been chugging along with nothing but a DVD subscription since Netflix made the switch, but their selection's been coming up a little short these days, and I was imagining all those green "SAVE" buttons were connecting to movies they had on Streaming if not on DVD. I was imagining this huge selection I was missing out on so I broke down and paid for a Streaming sub. And wow, their selection is worse than when i left it, I think. They hardly have anything - it took me like 2 minutes to scroll through their entire Comedy selection, and that's a major genre. ...So, I'll probably cancel it real soon. But for now I'm binge-watching and before I kill it, I of course had to look for some crazy, weirdo streaming hip-hop docs. And here's what I came up with.

The movie is called F.E.D.S. (2004, Netflix rating: two stars), and it promises "to track the history of hip-hop and rap music by starting at the source: the streets." According to the cast list, we can expect to see rappers like Mad Skillz, Method Man, Scarface and Talib Kweli. It's a proper feature length (87 mins), which is a good sign, so let's jump right in.

The opening title card tells us "Russell Simmons' American Truth Series Presents" it. I dind't know that Russell Simmons was involved with this or that he had an American Truth Series, but okay. Anyway, F.E.D.S. is a magazine (Finally Every Dimension of the Streets). I actually knew this, but it's been so long since I've thought about it that I didn't make the connection until it came up in the credits. They're more of a "street" magazine than a hip-hop mag, per se; but there's naturally a lot of rap music covered in it. So Simmons collaberating with F.E.D.S. Magazine... can't say I know what to expect from this one.

Well, it starts out with a big, shameless ad for the magazine, telling us how wonderful and edgy it is. Then a narrator comes in to introduce us to a segment on dog fighting. There's a little footage of graphic fighting (and looking through the Netflix reviews, it's gotten a lot of complaints); but bizarrely, it mostly comes off as an extended "How To" for pit bull fighting, from breeding and training to feeding and washing. They even show you the execution of a weaker dog (by electrocution). They do talk to a dog rescuer, too, and try to be an objective portrayal of the situation, but jeez... I thought this was gonna be a fun post.

Then we're back to advertising the magazine. Some people do drops on the street (including Fat Joe); and then the owner of the magazine tells the story of how he got shot, and decided to create a magazine for his friends and family in prison. I didn't realize this, but apparently the founder was down with the Money Boss Players, and started the magazine with the money he got from their Qwest Records deal. That's kinda interesting.

So, anyway, then there's an interview with an ex drug dealer. Then another segment called "Making the Magazine." Now this shit's really starting to feel like an infomercial. The next segment is Selling the Magazine;" they can't even space them out like every other one. The las"t non-mag related segment is a piece on gangs where they interview some old west coast bloods and crips. But we go back to more blatant self promotion before the movie ends with some promises of what's coming in the next F.E.D.S. DVD, which I don't think ever happened.

There's really jack shit about hip-hop in here. In fact, those artists Netflix lists as being in the movie? Meth and all them? They're not in here! Yeah, there's Fat Joe, and DJ Brucie Bee does a quick drop, but what's up with Scarface? Okay, being focused on street shit instead of rap music is more in line with what the actual magazine's about.

At tne end of the day, this is mostly an ad for the magazine, with a couple of extra segments thrown in. Honestly, a straight up documentary on the magazine would've been more compelling; but as it is, it's an interesting look at an interesting magazine if you're bored. If you don't have Netflix to watch it for free, I definitely wouldn't recommend buying it unless you're a hardcore F.E.D.S. devotee, although as of this writing you can get the DVD on Amazon for a penny. It's basically a big ol' ad masquerading as a movie.

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