Friday, May 30, 2008

InstaRapFlix 1: Queens of Hip Hop

I was bored and scanning through Netflix's browse instant list... they don't have a whole lot of movies yet, but I just discovered that they have a whole ton (well, comparatively) of hip-hop docs. So I que'd them all, even the really hokey, trashy looking ones. And I'm gonna review 'em on here every time I watch one.

The first one I watched was Queens of Hip Hop (Netflix rating: 1 star). I can sum this one up really easily. Good but too short.

First of all, it has interviews with a whole ton of female MCs. Way too many to list, but some are: Salt N Pepa, Roxanne Shante, Pri the Honeydark, The Poetess (remember her?), Rah Digga, Charli Baltimore, Champ MC, Synquis of Finesse & Synquis, Nikki D, Medusa, etc etc. This film came out in 2003 and I'd bet some of the interviews were done even earlier, because MCs like Queen Pen and Lady Luck are talking like they're on top of the rap game.

But the documentary is only 58 minutes. Take away the time for opening and closing credits, and a pointless series of clips where the MCs shout out the documentary they're in (you don't have to promote it; we're already watching it, guys!), and you're down to like 45 minutes.

So basically each MC gets a little video clip... roughly 1 minute long to tell their story (who they are, how they got into the game), and then it's on to the next one. Then, for the last 20 minutes, they come back, and some of the MCs get a second clip, where they talk about how being an MC has influenced their family life. Every once in a while, they also show a short clip of one of their music videos, and two of the MCs (Paula Perry & Invincible) even freestyle.

Most of these MCs are pretty damn interesting (albeit some more than others), and it's really a shame the filmmakers never ask any questions... when Lady of Rage says she's suing Death Row, no one even says, "really, tell us about that?" When Roxanne Shante claims to be the first female MC, no one brings up The Sequence, Sha-Rock, Mercedes Ladies, etc. It's just a couple sentences and then CUT! onto somebody else.

There's also the problem of cheesy graphics. The gimmick of having four on-screen images zoom past each other during the opening credits was so annoying I had to skip past them (and the equally cheesy opening credits song didn't help). And every once in a while, during the interviews, the image splits into three for no discernible reason... it's just distracting. But the worst was the on-screen comments. Like, when Invincible stood up to freestyle, this flashing purple text floated all over the screen saying, "She's bangin'!" Yowza!

Now I can sort of guess why they did this. When you're just stringing along a series of unrelated short clips, as an editor, you're surely thinking "I've got to do something to make this more of a 'movie' and justify my fee." Of course, the thing to do to make this a more substantial movie would have been to get deep with the interviews, ask probing questions and maybe even explore the subjects more than once in a quick in-studio interview. The fact that it would have stretched the running time out to proper feature length would only have been a bonus!

But, for all its flaws, it's still cool. They do get a lot of dope MCs, and even the wack ones and complete unknowns (Mary J. Wanna, or some girl named Diamond D who was signed to Ruthless but never came out) are interesting to hear from for the short time they're on.

It's so short and superficial, I'd be mad if I bought the DVD. But for an instant viewing on Netflix? It's definitely worth checking out.

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