Sunday, April 17, 2016

Bad Rap
Released April 16th 2016 (TriBeCa Film Festival)
1 hr 22 mins
Not Rated
Documentary, Music


Director: Salima Koroma

David "Lyricks" Lee
Richard "Rekstizzy" Lee
Jonathan "Dumbfoundead" Park

BAD RAP follows the lives and careers of four Asian-American rappers trying to break into a world that often treats them as outsiders. Sharing dynamic live performance footage and revealing interviews, these artists make the most skeptical critics into believers.

From battle rhymes of crowd-favorite Dumbfoundead to the tongue-in-cheek songs of Awkwafina, the unapologetic visuals of Rekstizzy to conflicted values of Lyricks, the film paints a memorable portrait of artistic passion in the face of an unsung struggle.

Review by Stephen M.

Bad Rap is a documentary that focuses on four Asian American rappers trying to reach the next level of stardom.  They each have a small following but are trying to break into an industry in which Asians are not known for and often ignored for the traditional masculine typed African Americans as the movie explains.  The story which started as a graduated thesis for Director Salima, is transformed into a thoughtful well spoken marching song for Asian American rappers.

One the things that the documentary does very well is not only giving us the struggles of the rappers as Asian Americans but actually some history of Asian American rappers that preceded them like the Mountain Brothers and Jin MC.  What I would have liked to see more of is the backgrounds of Rekstizzy and Awkwafina.  We get interviews with both Dumbfoundead and Lyrick's moms but none of the other two as to their growing up and dealing with their family on their career choice and listening to rap music.  I had a chance to speak to Awkwafina as we exited the theater and she mentioned that they did interview her grandmother but that didn't make the cut of the film.

What I also enjoyed about the film is the Director's use of interviews and recorded performance footage.  The way it was woven together and even the camera work in the interview from zooming in and out focusing on various parts of the interviewees added to the messages and was very well done.  The interviews with the four music industry reps was insightful and honest which gave us an outside look at the rappers without the stereotypical views.

The rappers themselves couldn't have been better selected in giving us four very different personalities as well as four very different levels in their journey in their rap career.  Dumbfoundead as the elder of the four as far as experience naturally gets slightly more screen time.  But the filmmakers allocates more than enough time to tell the story of the three as well.

Overall I enjoyed the film as an Asian American that enjoys rap music.  Even if you are neither of these categories the film is an interesting look at breaking down cultural stereotypes and of the struggles of budding musicians in a musical genre which they are overlooked.  Give this film a chance and you'll be pleasantly surprised.

The remaining shows at the TriBeCa Film Festival are as follows.  Make sure you catch one if you are into good documentaries or a fan of music.

Monday, April 18, 9:30 PM at Regal Cinemas Battery Park 1
Wednesday, April 20, 3:45 PM at Bow Tie Cinemas Chelsea 5
Saturday, April 23, 2:45 PM at Bow Tie Cinemas Chelsea 7

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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