Friday 27 October 2023

Movie review: Biggie: I Got A Story to Tell, dir Emmet Malloy (2021)

I’ve been watching a few hip hop things on Netflix, there’s a crime drama about the assassination of Biggie Smalls and Tupac Amaru titled ‘Unsolved’ which is ok. I prefer the docos like ‘Biggie: I Got A Story to Tell’. The music industry is particularly well suited to this sort of treatment because of the ready availability of relevant music to go with the on-screen action. It’s easy to find something to accompany the visuals when you’re dealing with a musician.

Another good doco is ‘Onefour: Against All Odds’ (2023, dir Gabriel Gasparinatos) which deals with the Australian drill rap group and their ongoing struggle against Strikeforce Raptor, who have been successful in shutting them down up to this point in time. When the state is against you performing because of the incendiary nature of your lyrics you have a case of censorship on a grand scale. To give substance to the group’s relevance, the filmmakers brought in Osman Faruqi, a left-wing journalist and the son of the NSW Greens politician. I’m not a fan of either of these two characters.

The story of hip hop is inherently cinematic because of its association with crime, violence, cars, guns, and drugs. There’s something anarchic about this underground, which is why the cases of Biggie Smalls and Tupac are still unsolved: nobody will talk with the cops. Hip hop is graffiti, it’s the streets, a strange gallery where people perform some role that is denied them at home.

Another doco is ‘Hip Hop Evolution’ hosted by Canadian rapper Shadrach "Shad" Kabango, which came out in 2016. This is a series and it goes into some detail ion a more geeky vein than the other ones mentioned. I find this show thoughtful and insightful but it’s not as dramatic as the others obviously because crime isn’t the central plot point. Nevertheless this show and the others demonstrate that there’s an enduring audience for this sort of music, which is close to my heart because I use rhyme too in my own poetry.

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