FILM REVIEW: Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap (15)

“I felt I really had to do this film because rap music saved my life,” explains Ice-T, narrator and co-director of this glossy documentary which celebrates the men and women who propelled the lyrical art form into the musical mainstream.

Almost 50 interview subjects are shoe-horned into 111 minutes, from old skool legend Grandmaster Caz, who surmises, “Hip hop didn’t invent anything, hip hop re-invented everything!” to a typically chilled Snoop Dogg, claiming to get his creative juices flowing by smoking “a bit of weed” and surrounding himself with beautiful women.

Electrifying scenes of rap’s biggest names in full flow, reciting not only their own lyrics but also favourite phrases by peers, offer a new-found appreciation of these men’s wordsmithery and verbal dexterity.

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And it is largely a patriarchal world, with brief nods to the rapping sisterhood, represented here by Cherry James (one half of Salt-n-Pepa) and MC Lyte. The film is clearly a labour of love for Ice-T, who criss-crosses America to interview friends within the industry.

However, not everything goes smoothly, such as some filming on the streets of New York with Q-Tip, which is interrupted by a curious passer-by. “Homey, you see the camera? Keep it movin’!” begs Ice-T. Popular figures such as 50 Cent, Jay-Z and Queen Latifah don’t warrant a mention but Ice-T and co-director Andy Baybutt embrace other icons including Chuck D from Public Enemy, Dr Dre and Eminem, who seems genuine when he claims that rap “is the one thing I think I have that I can do well”.

Ice-T is far more flattering. “Whoever thought one of the greatest rappers of all time would be a white cat?” he purrs. Who indeed...

By Damon Smith


Released: July 19 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas), 111 mins