Last night after the Falling Whistles Campaign at The Summit SF, I walked the 4 blocks over to the Roxie Theater and caught an independent film “about Hip-Hop”… or so I thought. The film brought me full circle from the Bronx, NY in the 1970’s – the birthplace of Hip Hop – across 6 other countries which include Germany, France, Senegal and Palestine and their use of Hip Hop and Rap as a unifying language.
There were no semi-naked pretty girls in this film. There were no diamond studded pinky rings or bravados to match. In fact, I did not see a Beamer, Benz or Bentley in this film. There was not one whisper of the word swag. Not one. Instead, I caught glimpses of the projects in Berlin, and the East German Skinhead rappers who live there. What I saw were African women embody feminism in their rhymes. I heard Les Nubians speak on how Hip Hop is not dead; not in their work and not on the streets of France. Not in the still racially segregated streets of Berlin, not in the poverty lined streets of Senegal, and absolutely not in the terrifying streets of the Gaza strip.
Hip Hop is still alive and very relevant to a generation who seemingly has lost sight of what real hip hop is all about: the message. It is the voice for people who feel as if they do not have one, and they are all loud and clear about one thing – being heard. The film is provocative and political and absolutely intriguing from beginning to end. I thought I was watching a film about hip hop. What I got instead was a film about people who use music to confront the issues they’re facing, and an earful of amazing original music.
What struck me as the most fascinating were the artists documented from Palestine and Israel. The Palestinian/Israeli conflict provided a blank canvas for artists who are actually in conflict with each other, whereas the other featured artists were conflicted with the government and the state, here were two cultures of people who are at war, yet rapping together about the same situations. What?! It speaks to the whole complexity of the situation, and the ability of music to fundamentally unify those who were born to hate each other.
If I had to pick one thing from the movie to take with me, it’s probably the image of Busy Bee bustin’ rhymes like he never lost a step. He’s had a long time to become jaded. He’s had a long time to watch hip hop evolve from a movement that spoke to him to a commercial sell out, and yet there he was behind a steering wheel, rhyming. Somehow through it all, he has remained very passionate about hip hop. It’s absolutely worth watching.
If you’d like to catch The Furious Force of Rhymes, there are two more showings in the Bay Area: Monday 10/17 at Shattuck in Berkeley, and Thursday 10/20 back at The Roxie. Tickets are available here.