Blu-Ray Review – Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap
It’s refreshing to see a film like Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap which is about the music and is made by someone who clearly loves the music.
Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap is Ice-T’s directorial debut, and it there were ever someone who was perfect to direct a documentary about rap music. Ice-T has been involved in rap music for over thirty years and has been involved in film and TV for almost as long.
Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap is exactly what the title suggests. The film isn’t interested in documenting East vs West rivalries, or who killed Biggie, or who killed Tupac, but more interested in what
makes a good rhyme, and how the most prominent rappers work. Given that Ice-T is one of the most influential rappers of all time, he knows a lot of those who are at the top of their game. Whilst casual observers might not recognise Afrika Bambaataa or Immortal Technique, they will definitely recognise the likes of Kanye West and Dr Dre.
The intended audience is clearly people who are already fans of rap music, but anyone who enjoys poetry or a well put together rhyme will enjoy this film. Almost everyone interviewed does a few accapella verses, the highlight being that a lot of them are improvising in the middle of the street. One of the standout scenes is watching Q-Tip doing his part in a busy New York street whilst passers-by keep stopping and interrupting him.
Ice-T takes a very prominent role in the film, directly interviewing most of the artists and often rapping along with them or by himself. The interviews are separated by overhead shots of American cities whilst classic rap tracks play over – a technique that reminds me of a scene in Matthieu Kassovitz’s 1995 film, La Haine, where the camera starts wandering through a Parisian suburb whilst Je Ne Regrette Rien and Sound Of Da Police do battle with each other on a resident’s turntable. It’s a very solid debut from Ice-T, but the film feels overly long in parts. At just under two hours, it feels like it could have done with a tighter edit. I grew up with a passing interest in rap music due to a love of skateboarding (rap music frequently features alongside hardcore punk and thrash metal in skateboarding videos) and crossovers with punk and metal (like Public Enemy and Anthrax’s “Bring The Noise”, or Ice-T’s own Bodycount), so the length didn’t bother me so much, and it definitely won’t be a problem for fans of the genre, but it could put off anyone who isn’t particularly interested in rap music.
Whilst documentaries about rap music have been done plenty of times, usually they have nothing to do with the music and everything to do with the violence that surrounds the music at times. It’s refreshing to see a film like Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap which is about the music and is made by someone who clearly loves the music.