Review: ‘Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap’

Pic delivers a freestyle overview of hip-hop that's heavy on rap-celeb interviews and aggravatingly light on context of any sort.

Less dope than wack, rapper-turned-documentarian Ice-T’s “Something From Nothing” delivers a freestyle overview of hip-hop that’s heavy on rap-celeb interviews and aggravatingly light on context of any sort. Split into sections on East and West Coast stylings, the high-volume, low-intellect pic samples a handful of classic beats and rhymes while lacking so much as a single historical date, unless one counts the raucous “1989!” near the start of Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power.” Indomina’s Sundance pickup is geared exclusively to fans, some of whom will quibble over omissions and/or come away with little from “Nothing.”

Highlights of the overlong film include off-the-cuff raps from the likes of Kanye West, KRS-One, Grandmaster Caz, and Eminem. More than anything, the docu is interested in the sources of artistic inspiration, as evidenced by the filmmaker’s recurring, ultimately redundant question of what individual emcees do to prepare for writing and/or rapping. Urban images of barbed wire, graffiti, neon, pigeons, and cop cars look cool but aren’t nearly enough to establish the music’s political dimensions. The director’s voiceover narration is often inane, culminating in the revelation that rap “requires skill.”

Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap

Docu - U.K.

Production

An Indomina (worldwide) release of a Jolygood Films, Westmount Films, Final Level Entertainment production. (International sales: UTA, Los Angeles.) Produced by Paul Toogood. Executive producers, Ice-T, Jorge Hinojosa, Simon D. Pearce, David Kaplan, Alison Toogood, Jelena Nikolic. Directed by Ice-T. Co-director, Andy Baybutt.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Jeremy Hewson, Baybutt, John Halliday; editor, Kieran Smythe; sound, Michael Valesco, Sean O'Neil, Diako Diakoff, Philip Shipman, Adam Tilzer, Ariel Loh. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Premieres), Jan. 22, 2012. Running time: 110 MIN.

With

Africa Bambaataa, Q-Tip, Eminem, Common, Big Daddy Kane, Dr. Dre, Raekwon, Melle Mel, Grandmaster Caz, Redman, Rakim, MC Lyte, Nas, Mos Def, Kanye West, Chuck D., KRS-One, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Doug E. Fresh.

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