There was a time when mainstream Hip-Hop music meant something. When DJs were considered to be the backbone; producers made beats that were experimental and innovative; and emcees fierily delivered lyrics that were politically, socially and party orientated all at the same time.
Rhyme & Reason documents this golden era of the musical genre, with director Peter Spirer choosing to interview a selection of over eighty significant artists at the peak of their game at that time of the film’s making (1997), and the years that came before.
Beyond the multi-billion dollar industry that Hip-Hop music was quickly becoming, the film attempts to get to the bottom of who and what started it all, as well as examine why many people became passionate enough to get involved and contribute to its popularity.
KRS-One, one of the genre’s most accomplished public speakers, states “Rap is something that is being done, [while] Hip-Hop is something that is being lived,” when stating that this is a lot more than just music.
Beyond, Hip-Hop is an artistic culture with four basic elements — MCing, DJing, b-boying and graffiti writing — and Rhyme & Reason allows the artists to explain and demonstrate (with some concert footage) how these are all interconnected. Other elements such as beatboxing are also touched upon.
Considering that this a documentary, there’s always a risk of pretentiousness, but Spirer does a good job at allowing the long cast of artists to do the talking via a series of quick edits. Opinions often differ; and there’s a particularly fascinating debate about the whole concept of “Keeping it real” that presents an interesting contrast between the root of Hip-Hop and the direction it headed towards.
A young Nas, for example, is seen sat on the steps in the projects, explaining how all the surrounding violence influences his rhymes; later, sitting before his personal shark tank, Ice-T then says that “No one wants to live in the ghetto. […] There is no black community; there’s a poor community, and I ain’t tryin’ to live in no poor community.”
Other issues covered here include violence, racism and sexism. Overall, Rhyme & Reason is a very intriguing look at the heart of the culture that began in the streets and grew to become more commercially viable. It’ll appeal to new and established fans of Hip-Hop music/the culture in general.