Wednesday, September 1, 2010

How Do You Make the Hip-Hop's Greatest Legends Boring?

I decided to take a random chance on a hip-hop DVD today. It didn't look like much, but unlike most of the cheap hip-hop DVDs out there, Hip Hop Legends represents the old school. That's pretty cool. So how bad can it be, right?

Well, this one opens up with a very high-energy song called "Hip-Hop America," which plays over some credits and random driving footage of New York. I had to skip ahead to the closing credits to see that it was by someone named Deadwate featuring Mag. They played the same song again over the closing credits.

My fascination with the song over, I can now commence to watching the movie properly. In an opening crawl, we're told, "For one night only the pioneers of Hip Hop will get together to share the real story of the movement." Considering the name I saw go by in the opening credits (Grandmaster Caz, Bambaataa, Melle Mel, Busy Bee), I'm kinda amped.

Unfortunately, after that, we run into one of the Achilles's Heels of these hip-hop docs: lame, cheesy narration. Some random guy prattles on about the crime rate in The Bronx and how hip-hop came out of it "and channeled it into something positive." Blah, blah, blah. Unfortunately, this guy will keep coming back and back, to drone out about everything we already know. I think more than half of the film might literally be comprised of this guy's voice speaking over title cards.

The rest of this movie, the part we're actually here for, are the interviews. Besides the artists I named above, we've got DMC, DJ Skribble, EK Mike C and others. Unfortunately, they spend most of their time re-saying what the narrator already told us - for example, we're told like four times that grafitti and breakdancing are a part of hip-hop culture, too; it's not just the music. I doubt anyone who picked this DVD up would need to be told that once, really, but okay... maybe some younger viewers decided they wanted to listen to sit-down interviews of middle-aged musicians talk about old music, and this would actually be informative to them ...the first time.

Ok, let's call it like it is. Clearly, this movie is based around the fact that the filmmakers had backstage access to one big hip-hop concert with a lot of old school artists. Some gave them sit-down interviews, and some just gave them a minute or two real quick between numbers. The filmmakers decided, "we can stretch this into a film!" And they set to work adding redundant narration, long credits and some stock photos. But they still didn't even succeed in stretching it to feature length - yup, this is another one of those 60 minute DVDs I keep stumbling upon!

To be fair, if you stick with it, there are a few moments here and there that aren't bad. Busy Bee adds a little humor, and there's a short segment where they actually leave the concert and go film Pow Wow in the Bronx. Someone could edit the highlights out of here and make an okay Youtube video. It still probably wouldn't be that revealing, but it would be cool just to here these guys speaking a bit.

To be honest, I kinda knew this was gonna be another cash-grab DVD... but I figured with all those great old school artists, it would still have to be somewhat worthwhile, right? Nope! Not really... Perhaps if the interviewer talking to these guys could come up with any deeper questions beyond, "tell us how hip-hop started," but there is just nothing compelling in any of this footage. The best thing about this doc is that title song. And it's not that good.

The DVD does have an extra worth noting, titled "The Future Of Hip Hop." It's basically another segment of the film, complete with more narration over another title card and more interview footage with the same guys. I really don't understand why they didn't just leave this in as part of the movie. It would have at least brought them substantially closer to being feature length, and it isn't any less (or more) compelling than the rest of the interview footage. Eh. Oh well, who cares?

So yeah. Don't don't be like me and waste your time just because some great artists are involved. Apparently it takes more than that to make something worth watching. Lessons learned all around, I reckon.

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