Review: ‘I Want My Name Back’

A scrappy documentary that compensates with involving storytelling for what it lacks in technical polish.

The long struggle of pioneer hip-hoppers to reclaim their identities and re-establish their popularity is sympathetically recounted in Roger Paradiso’s “I Want My Name Back,” a scrappy documentary that compensates with involving storytelling for what it lacks in technical polish. Pic makes a potently persuasive case that founding members of the Sugarhill Gang — whose 1979 “Rapper’s Delight” is widely credited as the first significant rap song to hit the U.S. and international charts — were exploited and defrauded by unscrupulous owners of the now-defunct Sugar Hill Records label. Fest exposure could lead to limited theatrical spins before cable and homevid beckon.

Front and center throughout are the engaging Master Gee (real name, Guy O’Brien) and Wonder Mike (Michael Wright), who insist they were too-trusting naifs when they signed with Sugar Hill back in the day. Their group sold millions of records, but relatively little of the profits went into their pockets. Worse, when the rappers attempted a years-later comeback, they found label execs had trademarked both the group’s name and their own stage names. Pic works well as a cautionary tale, with a bittersweet finale that nonetheless sounds an upbeat note.

I Want My Name Back

Production

A Go! Prods. production. Produced by Roger Paradiso, Josh Green, Edward J. Albowicz. Executive producers, Milton Maldonado, Robin Strickland, Henry Williams. Directed by Roger Paradiso.

Crew

Camera (color/B&W, DV), Berry Blanton, Nick Dewitt, Patrick McDevitt, Michael Mastroserio, Kay Sookaram; editors, Eric Diebner, Nquavah James; music, Henry Williams, Guy O'Brien, Tracey Temple, Michael Wright; original score, William Bookman. Reviewed on DVD, Houston, Jan. 21, 2012. (In Slamdance Film Festival.) Running time: 85 MIN.

With

Guy O'Brien, Michael Wright, Henry Williams, Tracy Temple. Narrator: Tony Matthews.

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