Monday, June 25, 2012

Where the Sidewalk Ends

There's been a hip-hop documentary floating around online for years now. I'm not sure I watched it all the way through, but there are pieces and snippets on Youtube and all over, and it had some nice freestyles and clips of unreleased music.  Released in 2003, the uncreatively titled Hip-Hop: A Tale From the Hood* followed indie favorite IG Off, and after his recent passing (if you haven't already, check out this piece by DJ Eclipse), I decided it was time to finally seek it out and watch it properly.

Unfortunately, that proved rather difficult. There is no DVD or official release of this film. It's actually a German film - filmmaker Harald Rumpf came to America to film this, and it aired on German TV, plus had various screenings throughout the world. And DVDs were definitely planned... Off the Block Entertainment, the indie label IG Off was associated with, still has a rough looking DVD cover on their myspace page. And I even found a photo showing the plans for the DVD's menu [right]... but no DVD ever appeared, here or in any other country.

IG Off and his partner Hazadous put a few nice tracks and a lot of freestyle appearances during the late 90's and the heyday of the DIY vinyl scene; but never really seemed to make much noise after that.  Well, this documentary details that "after that"period first-hand, capturing the creation of their labor of love, the essentially unreleased IG Off and Hazadous album, Where the Sidewalk Ends. Every element is here, from IG Off's home life and day job (working with the mentally handicapped), to late night studio sessions, radio appearances, securing guest verses (look for multiple cameos, including Killa Sha and Kool G Rap, who nearly becomes this film's Godot) and discussing the real specifics behind the budget of the album.

The filmmakers follow him and his crew for some time, as opposed to single interviews, so they capture a lot of insight and depth. Personal stories are shared, it manages to get very close. One disappointment is that, while IG occasionally speaks on the history of hip-hop, they never really talk about his own musical history, like his old school production work and writing for Antoinette. I'm sure there's a ton of great stories there, but while his mother briefly mentions that he had disappointments in the industry, that's it. I suspect the filmmakers really didn't know enough to ask, which is a bit of a sad missed opportunity.  But what they do get is certainly compelling enough and overall makes for a successful and rewarding film. It's touching. And one of those rare films that works just as well if you're a hardcore hip-hop head who knows all the players involved, or a film lover who never listens to rap.

Now, granted, the film is in German. Meaning, not just of German origin, but made in the German language. If you don't speak it, good luck understanding what the heck the narrator's talking about at any point in the film. But fortunately, 98% of this film is just off-the-cuff footage of IG and co speaking their native language in Queens. So you can just ignore the subtitles and follow the film with ease. ...Or, you could, if this film was ever actually released.

Maybe the slim silver lining to IG's tragic passing could be that renewed interest in his work leading to both a proper DVD release of this film and IG Off and Hazadous's Where the Sidewalk Ends album. Granted, some of the tracks found their way onto a compilation album called Burnin' tha Block, but I'm sure we'd all like one of those CDs (if not vinyl) of their whole album like we see in the movie. I know a lot of heads still hold down their early 12" singles and appearances on projects like the Lyricist Lounge album and Eddie Ill & DL tapes, so if the rights-holders could make it happen, I'm sure there would be fan interest to support the projects. Here's hoping.

*I believe the original title was going to be Where the Sidewalk Ends like the album, as implied by this trailer for the film on Youtube; but it was probably changed to avoid confusion with the famous Otto Preminger film.

1 comment:

  1. good lookin out on ig's legacy.loved this flic.the narrator just comments what you see on the screen.nothing too deep.but great material.