“This film is about the craft,” declares Ice-T, the veteran rapper (once notorious for his track “Cop Killer”) who’s turned director with “Something From Nothing : The Art of Rap,” a documentary on the roots and development of busting rhymes. Ice-T is a good person to lead this investigation: He’s a rapper from the days when hip-hop was vital and exploding with new ideas, before the descent into gansgta banality; he also has the contacts and the street cred to rope in a bunch of other rappers to talk about their art, and given the, umm, often combative nature of hip-hop rivalries, that’s no small feat.
People who should be here are, in candid interviews and frequently freestylin’: Public Enemy, Dr. Dre, Eminem, Ice Cube, Afrika Bambaata, Nas, even Snoop Dogg. It’s almost more interesting to note who’s not in the movie: sucka MCs like Ice-T nemeses LL Cool J and Soulja Boy, or more noticeably 50 Cent and Jay-Z, which one suspects is deliberate.
Great anecdotes? Ice has got you covered; best is KRS-One remembering how he was just your average B-boy until some random MC singled him out in a crowd for public dissing, which led to his taking the mic for the first time in his own defense. The only weak point is when the film raises the question “why isn’t hip-hop as respected as jazz or blues” and never seems to find an answer, while ignoring the obvious.