Freestyle – The Art Of
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
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