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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Rap > Freestyle - The Art Of Rhyme (Palm DVD)

Freestyle – The Art Of Rhyme (Documentary)


Picture: C+     Sound: B-     Extras: B-     Main Program: B-



Is Rap in trouble?  Is it dead outside of its commercial success, where it is hanging on?  Has the “it ain’t got a thing if it ain’t got that bling bling” mentality killed any true power Rap has?  Has greed castrated it politically?  Well, that is becoming the case in the mainstream, especially after at least 15 years of popularity.  After watching all 75 short minutes of Kevin Fitzgerald’s documentary Freestyle – The Art Of Rhyme (2004), I wondered if I might be watching the end of an era.


The point of such Rap-offs, as seen in Curtis Hansen’s 8 Mile with Eminem, is for the most talented Rappers to be able to come up with the wittiest repartee they can off the cuff, off the bat, at that moment.  This has been going on even since the 1970s, in non-Rap rhyme exchanges often referred to as “numbers” surfacing even in episodes of The Jeffersons, but this is from the street and some of the best talent in this game surface here.  It is much of everything we have seen before, including the component of survival.  Now, however, it has a new context, though no one seems to be actively aware, acknowledging or maybe even caring about the big money equivalent that seems to be reaching new nadirs on the charts.  The only question left was could this reinvent itself before something new came along?  This is certainly an authentic, thorough look into this world, but is not long enough and needed more ironic distance to really hit the mark.  As it stands, Freestyle is worth a look for those interested or those who want a refreshing alternative to the prefab-Rap we are now suffering through.


The 1.33 X 1 full frame image is varied in quality, shot on NTSC-affiliated video (likely digital) and complies the work for four cameramen.  The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is not bad considering how this was recorded on the spot, but lacks some of the richness and bass Rap is known for due to the recording circumstances and Dolby compression.  Extras include a few trailers, a late night rhyme session, four deleted/additional scenes, and a six-segment section of more freestyling and interviews.  Some of the latter should have stayed in the main feature, but it is here and that helps.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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