Director Ice T’s Critically-Lauded Documentary Debuts on DVD, Digital, and Video on September 18th
If you’re a white guy it’s easy to deride rap; “hell, when did a turn table become a musical instrument?” Tom Robbin’s in the great novel Skinny Legs And All had a line that went, “Sounds like somebody feeding a rhyming dictionary to a popcorn popper...while shoving 'em both up a guard dog's ass!" and that was funny as hell.
But to write the art off that easily is becoming your parents. That’s right. You heard me. I want you folks of my age group to think back to when you first heard the Beatles and dug that wild, mop top music. I want you to think of how cool they were with those hair cuts and funky suits. Those Beatle Boots, that you just had to have. Now think of what your parents had to say.
Noise, that’s not music. They’ll never last. And the lyrics are dumb.
But today, even classical musicians pay tribute to their music. Rap, is street poetry. If you’ve read about Rap in the magazines, etc…then you already know that Rap isn’t the music. Rap is the rhyming poetry. Hip Hop is the music, with or without the poetry. Rap has been said to have grown out of the “African American Signifyin’. The ‘call and response’ poetry that often used rhetorical and metaphorical verbal presentation.
That’s all well and good, and indeed, a lot of the practice is absorbed into the Art. But, there are other cultural phenomena and influences. For us old white guys that want to write it off as a fad that will fade – and get over that, its been around for 30 plus years now as a cultural force – here’s a way to clean your brain, and listen a ’fresh. Let’s go back to our heroes, The Beatles. Where the hell did they get that name? Well they were ‘50s rock n’ roll fans, but they were heavily influenced by the black R&B, jazz and the “beat generation” or Beatniks.
Okay, so who were the beatniks? Hello, they were making street poetry in the coffee shops of urban America. They were reciting poetry that spoke to the disenfranchised youth of America and setting it to jazz music being played behind them. Why did this ‘beatnik’ music come about? Well we had a whole generation of young people coming of age and they felt separated from the “dream” they were being handed. They felt disconnected from the establishment. And they expressed that feeling through poetry. Street poetry. This wasn’t Omar Khayyám and his book of verse and thou, its tumbling, hallucinatory style of Ginsburg’s Howl.
That’s what Rap is, it’s street poetry. Poetry for the people, by the people. It comes from a tradition as old as man. It comes from the same place as Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, The Beatle’s. and every cultural phenomena that has risen from the people that don’t live in mansions. And who’d have ever thought that one of the greatest rappers of all time would be a white cat?
It’s everywhere now, it’s been absorbed into the rock n’ roll of The Blues Travelers. Aerosmith has re-recorded classic rock songs in rap and with rappers. It’s part of the culture and it has made a marvelous impression. And it has it’s regalia. We had Beatle Boots, then Nehru Shirts, leather fringed vests and bell bottoms. Now it’s baggy jeans, and backwards ball caps and ‘bling’. We had peace signs and smiley faces, now its hand signs. Sure, some of it is offensive. Especially the language. Go to YouTube and search Lenny Bruce and tell me he wasn’t offensive.
Here, you get a serious look at what goes on in the creation of the music. Viewers are taken on a personal journey into the craft and skills of rap, and what goes on inside the minds and erupts from the pens of rap legends, when Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap, Ice-T’s critically-acclaimed film, debuts on DVD, Digital, and Video on Demand on September 18th. Directed and hosted by rap legend Ice-T, the release of The Art of Rap on DVD follows the documentary’s premier at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and successful theatrical runs in the United States and England.
If you think you’re hip, if you are in touch with the world around you, then you’ll love this video. It’s insightful, but more importantly, it’s a document in the tradition of street poetry everywhere, which makes it as American as apple pie. Dig it.
Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved