YO! Netflix Raps

What I’ve been watching recently


I swear some Netflix exec is doing penance for inflicting ‘The Get Down’ on the world (I’m only bitter because I was so excited for it) as the last month or so there has been a steady stream of what I guess someone at the BBC would call ‘urban’ content…it has been pretty variable in quality but there have been some great shows as well.

The Defiant Ones

Everybody seems to have watched ‘The Defiant Ones’ and I’m not surprised. Loosely the story of Dr Dre and Jimmy Iovine selling Beats by Dre to Apple for $3billion it is a beautifully made documentary which draws interesting parallels between its two very different subjects (who both have amazing lifes), gets Dre to be a bit more honest than in other things I’ve seen before and generally gives an amazing insight into their worlds.

Plus money is clearly the secret to the fountain of youth as Dre looks 10 years younger now than when he released the Chronic!!

Rapture: Season 1

Rapture unfortunately suffers a bit in comparison to ‘The Defiant Ones’. A series of one off documentaries following various hip-hop luminaries it is pretty uneven episode to episode but it has its moments — Killer Mike in the studio with Nas, Just Blaze meeting Prodigy (just before he passed), 2Chains in his pink wheel chair demonstrating both an incredible work ethic and a total disregard for his own safety! Worth a look.

Roxanne Roxanne

Roxanne Shante was probably the first truly great female MC — she was absolutely killing it in the early days of rap breaking out and has a pretty interesting life story (and a whole bunch of urban legends surrounding her) but somehow this movie does none of it justice. There are barely any scenes of her rapping, it really gives Marley Marl the short-shrift and all in all just seems like a massive missed opportunity. She deserves better.

All Eyez on Me

Talk about deserving better. Bloody hell this film — the biopic of Tupac — is a travesty (though it does at least include some decent music.) Clearly the cast was picked because the looked like their subjects but nobody checked to see if they could act and every point in his story is handled in such a superficial way that you never get a feel for a hugely talented, complicated and flawed guy. Give it a miss and listen to one of his albums is my advice.

Amateur

I am a sucker for sports movies and coming of age movies and this is a pretty solid example of both with a strong underlying message about how money is changing sports and the exploitation of ever younger talent (sometimes by family). It also does some pretty nice work integrating the role of social media into the life of the main character. The basketball scenes are well done and it often doesn’t take the obvious option plot-wise but it does somewhat bottle it at the end. Worth a watch.

First Match

There are loads of parallels between this movie and the previous one. Instead of basketball though this is about wrestling and back room brawling and it is the story of a teenage girl desperately trying to gain the acceptance of her damaged (but not entirely irredeemable) father. Some of the fight scenes really are brutal but some of the quieter moments are nicely done and unlike ‘Amateur’ it follows through at the end rather than soften its stance. It is uneven over the whole movie but well worth sticking with.

David Letterman and Jay Z

Not sure there is much to say here — I am a big fan of Letterman and Jay Z is Jay Z and thus forever of interest to me but this was all a bit lightweight and rather let Jay off the hook on any number of things. The Rick Rubin bits were interesting though — another guy who is apparently doing a Benjamin Button!

On My Block: Season 1

This is a bit of a departure for a teen, coming of age show in a number of ways:

  1. it is set now — it isn’t looking for the nostalgia vote
  2. all the cast seem like they are actually the right age for their characters
  3. the cast is predominately black and brown
  4. while things like gangs are acknowledged it is background noise rather than the focus (for the majority of the time..)

I really enjoyed the show — even the occasional really eccentric departure from the main plots and while I think it ended in a way that slightly failed to do the rest of the show justice I’m really hoping for a second season.