The Art Of Rap is no misnomer. With a hip-hop veteran like Ice-T overseeing the film, his first as director, it deftly avoids the pitfalls that a traditional documentarian might have fallen victim to. Aside from seeing where Dr. Dre lives and finding out when Rev Run realized his life was spiraling out of control, there’s no discussion about wealth and fame. The film’s focus is simply on words. It’s about the thought process that leads one to write sixteen bars. It’s about how those sixteen bars wind up on a piece of paper. It’s about how those words and their delivery are agonized over before they even make it to the ears of the general public.
The Art Of Rap manages to capture the attention of its viewers like no other hip-hop documentary before. The respect that our favorite rappers have for each other’s talent has never been captured quite like this. Redman emphatically sings the praises of Eminem. Eminem recalls how hearing Treach from Naughty By Nature made him stop writing rhymes for an entire summer. Doug E. Fresh recites Melle Mel lyrics with the kind of deference usually reserved for a poet like Robert Frost. Ice-T also uses plenty of humor to keep viewers fixated on the silver screen, notably in a sequence where KRS-ONE reveals why he started rapping (SPOILER: He got dissed during a battle between two other rappers and refused to let it slide) or Ice-T trying to conduct an interview with Q-Tip on a New York City street corner while passersby begin to congregate around them snapping photos.
Few faults are to be found within The Art of Rap. Female rappers aren’t heavily represented. Very little time is paid to southern hip-hop, with Bun B serving as the sole spokesperson for that movement. Several interviews seemed criminally short. Prior to the screening, Ice-T revealed that his initial edit of the film was six hours long. Hopefully a nice chunk of the deleted sequences will end up on a DVD release of the film.
The Art Of Rap: Something From Nothing, just may be Ice-T’s most important contribution to hip-hop. The film is a beautiful love letter to emcees and their craft and should be watched by anyone with any shred of interest in hip-hop culture and is sure to be an inspiration for a new generation of emcees.
The Art Of Rap: Something From Nothing hits theaters on June 15th.