Sundance Journal: ‘Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap’

Do you like rap? Ice-T’s ‘Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap’ will captivate you no matter your feelings on this type of music.

I’m a casual rap fan. I used to listen to it a lot back in high school, less now. That’s okay, because even Ice-T admitted in his Q&A that rap has become diluted. It’s pop music now. He thinks that the hardness and the real artistry of rap are becoming lost. That’s why he wanted to make this movie, to shine a light on the genre and its artists.

Man, I really loved this movie. It’s a simple premise: Ice-T travels from New York to Detroit and then to California talking to famous rappers. This isn’t about their lifestyle or how much money they have; this movie is all about the craft. People like Grandmaster Caz and Eminem spit freestyle rhymes for the camera. Many of the rhymes here have never been heard before. Ice-T exhibits a world of artists who are masters of their craft, professionals who are able to come up with new rhymes and verses without a second’s thought.

Rappers like Kanye West and Q-Tip talk about how they got into the rap game and their influences. It isn’t easy for people to distance all the bling and beef associated with rap from the music itself, but Ice-T does that here.

What amazed me is that the audience I saw the movie with was obviously not hip-hop’s target customer group. There were plenty of over-fifty white people in the audience, and they were transfixed at what they were finding out from this documentary. It does a perfect job of shining a light on how difficult rap is – how writing lyrics, the sound of your voice, and the inflections you use all work in harmony to create the music heard on stage or on the radio.

If you ever get a chance to check out this documentary, do so. It’s a very interesting look into a world that’s hidden by the celebrity of the artists. It’s too easy to forget about the hard work it takes to create this kind of music.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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