By, Wendy Day
I celebrated Tupac’s birthday by watching Ice T’s incredibly cool documentary, The Art Of Rap.
I have to admit how surprised I was that it even made a partial mass theatrical release through AMC Theaters, because I can’t imagine the audience for a rap documentary about lyricists from the 80s and 90s would be a big draw financially. Having said that, I’m so thankful this movie was made because it was a very important film. For me, personally, it was bittersweet, like seeing old friends and realizing how great times used to be, but at the same time realizing you can never go back. Never. Time marches on and those awesome days of rap’s skill, art, and prominence are over. I shed a few tears over that thought.
The Art Of Rap reminded me for an hour and forty seven minutes of how passionate I once was for a music form that has grown and become something I barely recognize (but still like and listen to). That’s not a complaint, however. I realize all art forms need to grow and change, to not only NOT become stagnant, but to attract new fans as times change. I’m thankful Ice T put in the time and money to make this film before our heroes pass away. It will keep folks in the future from trying to change history (within old school hip hop, one of our biggest fears is that history will rewrite itself in time and credit artists like Run DMC, for example, for founding rap instead of Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, and Afrika Bambaataa).
It was a great film that gave some incredible perspective from the mouths of lyrical artists who could mold words like clay and create songs where the rhymes were integral. Rappers back then used their words like musical instruments, and focused last on the money and accoutrements that came from their success. It was an art form first and foremost, and impressing one’s peers mattered far more than the check attached—unlike today.
Hats off to Ice T for doing this. It further sealed his icon status in rap (Ice T was always an icon and a talented fore father, but I don’t ever recall him being considered a lyricist himself) and gave us a historical artifact that will outlast everyone involved. Anyone who loves rap or hip hop must own this movie. It’s an awesome slice of history and offers great insight about what and who inspired our favorite rappers. I am hugely thankful that this film came from someone INSIDE of hip hop, who lived it and understood it, instead of an outsider. It was worth every penny!