Fri Dec 13-Sun Dec 15
Like hiphop, love hiphop, never heard of hiphop--it doesn't matter, because these days everyone's doing a book or film about its rise. So even though you have an Outkast record and think Mos Def is dope, you still need to have some idea where they spawned from to look smart in front of your friends.
One way to educate yourself is through the Hiphop Film Fest, an independent film fest that's been traveling America this year (we're lucky to get it, 'cause it's made sporadic stops). It's full of documentaries that unite hiphop's elements onscreen with live music footage and probing commentary.
For example, Freestyle: the Art of Rhyme is an experimental film shot on stolen and borrowed cameras, which shows three underground hiphop emcees from the 1980s until the present day. Its wandering narrative is held together by dramatic battles between one of the film's stars, Supernatural, and his archenemy Craig G, including footage of Mos Def, DJ Kool Herc, Jurassic 5, and Medusa. Also notable is Poetic License--a low-budget American Idol that follows competitors for the 1999 National Poetry Slam competition--and the groundbreaking Nobody Knows My Name, which follows hiphop's strongest ladies, including Medusa and DJ Symphony of the Beat Junkies crew.
For those cashed out on music documentaries (from seeing too many boooring films like Scratch), there is Dark Days, a poignant documentary about a group of homeless people who live in a tunnel under Manhattan, with a kicking soundtrack by DJ Shadow. Straight Outta Hunters Point chronicles daily life in the Hunters Point housing project outside of San Francisco, with kids dreaming of being P. Diddy and J.Lo, but living daily dramas in an abandoned hood. Black Picket Fences goes inside one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in New York, showcasing two years worth of footage, and following the struggle of Tislam Milliner, who is struggling to make it out of the ghetto with his rapping.
See it, because it's way better than watching the cheesedicks on Beat Street for the millionth time.