Rhyme & Reason

on March 07, 1997 by Dale Winogura
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   A serious attempt to document the history and cultural values of rap and hip-hop, "Rhyme & Reason" skates too slickly over the surface of its subject to thoroughly mine the depths. Well shot in 16mm over several years, the film--thanks to director Peter Spirer--employs a rapid-fire barrage of interviews with various rap performers as they discuss the whys and wherefores of the music industry and their own pasts.
   Unfortunately, as concentrated as Spirer's technique is, "Rhyme & Reason" remains a series of visual sound bytes that don't reveal enough of the artistic and personal causes of the musicians. But, interesting especially to the uninitiated, a connection is made between social violence and the rage expressed in lyrics. Thetragic aspects of black ghetto life are made clear, particularly in sections on gangsta rap and the murder of Tupac Shakur.
   The film's strength lies in putting a human face on rap and hip-hop, articulated with insight by Dr. Dre and Ice-T. The same intelligence informs the entire project, even if the overall execution tends to glorify rather than examine the cultural phenomenon. Racism is sensitively dealt with in the desperate desire to achieve respect on the part of the artists. That's another admirable aspect of the film--that a sense of dignity is given to the men and women who create and sing the music of their lives.
   For all its overly flashy style and expressions of celebrity trappings, there's a human heart visible here that embraces both the rich and poor, famous and unknown. If Spirer had taken more chances, and explored more of the pain and angst of the people and their art form, "Rhyme & Reason" could have been very good instead of just fairly good. Starring Dr. Dre, Ice-T, Tupac Shakur and Salt-N-Pepa. Directed by Peter Spirer. Produced by Chuck Block. A Miramax release. Documentary. Rated R for pervasive strong language and some drug content. Running time: 90 min.
Tags: Starring Dr. Dre, Ice-T, Tupac Shakur and Salt-N-Pepa, Directed by Peter Spirer, Produced by Chuck Block, Miramax, Documentary
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