Ice T’s directorial debut, Something From Nothing: The Art Of Rap, takes the viewer on a journey through the birth of hip hop to a global phenomenon, and across some of America’s great cities.
The documentary takes place mainly in New York, Los Angeles and Detroit, as rapper and actor Ice-T travels around interviewing some of hip-hop’s biggest names about their craft, exploring their inspirations, writing processes and general thoughts on rap. There’s a huge line-up of the genre’s originators and hottest stars, including Chuck D, KRS One, Eminem, Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg, Kanye West, Nas, and Ice Cube, lending the film huge credibility.
There are many great moments, from KRS-One’s story of how he got into hip-hop after being slagged as an observer at a rap battle, to Ice-T himself explaining what he does when he forgets lyrics during a gig, to Snoop Dogg describing how he writes his rhymes. The candid interviews are interspersed with some great freestyles and a capella renditions of famous rap tunes, making this a must-see for fans of the genre.
Kanye West’s performance of his track Gorgeous is a particular highlight, and the often outlandish star comes across as surprisingly humble. Rap master Eminem’s interview is also insightful, as the rapper describes his method of writing lyrics, which is a complicated and mathematical process.
The soundtrack is full of rap classics, including Nas’s The World Is Yours, N.W.A.’s Straight Outta Compton and Gang Starr’s Full Clip, as well as instrumentals of some great tunes which makes you itch to hear the full versions.
The structure of the documentary and repetition of questions means that it can get a bit monotonous at times, but there are enough funny stories and excellent rhyming to keep you enthralled in Ice’s telling of the rap story.
Jeremy Hewson and Andy Baybutt lend the picture an extra element with their breathtaking cinematography, capturing the beauty of some of America’s biggest cities with sweeping aeriel shots in saturated colours. These helicopter shots combined with bustling street shots and rather dreamy and artsy close up shots give a real feel for the cities rap music originated in.
The craft of rhyming is blown open here, explored and explained by a veritable ‘Who’s Who’ of hip-hop, this is sure to please the genre’s fans while hopefully introducing a new legion of followers to rap music. This will certainly make you want to go home and blast out some hip hop, which I think is what Ice set out to do.