REVIEW: Fresh Dressed

4 09 2015

Fresh DressedSacha Jenkins’ documentary “Fresh Dressed” fills in some gaps in my knowledge of the style industry that sprung up concurrently with the rise of hip-hop.  But beyond that, it serves little effective purpose.

Sure, he interviews plenty of distinguished scholars who add some valuable two cents, such as how the black tradition of dressing to impress originated on the slavery plantation.  Later, these talking heads come back to speculate that the beginning of the end for a golden age of black style was precipitated because black businessmen could not catch up with their counterparts who got a head start.

But most of “Fresh Dressed” is a time capsule, preferring to show us the era in all its decadence rather than really unpack it beyond the two big pillars of meaning: self-esteem and class consciousness.  Jenkins lands some huge names for interviews, including Sean “Puffy” Combs, Pharrell Williams, Kanye West, and A$AP Rocky, all of whom parrot these major themes excellently.  At the end of the throwback, though, the documentary feels more like a storefront window display than a curated museum exhibit.  C+2stars

REVIEW: Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap

20 06 2012

Self-indulgent art annoys me in general, but for some reason, I had especially little patience with Ice-T’s documentary “Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap.”  The premise is simple: Ice-T, one of the first big-name rappers (now reduced to a supporting role on “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit”), goes around the country and has conversations with rappers.  They talk about the good old days, maybe share some sort of revelation about their craft, and then get a verse to rap.  Except Kanye West, who – surprise, surprise – has to basically break into a full song.

Perhaps its the same problem I had with “Waking Sleeping Beauty” in the sense that Ice-T makes the documentary with the sensibility of a DVD extra.  “Something From Nothing” feels like a movie made by the rappers, about the rappers, and ultimately for the rappers.  Unless you are a crazily obsessive fan, I don’t really think this movie holds much to excite you.

It’s also ridiculously long at a swollen running time of nearly two hours.  Ice-T could have easily knocked off 15 minutes from the film if he had edited out all of the excessive aerial establishing shots.  Yes, I know they look pretty, Ice-T!  But surprise, everybody has seen shots like these a million times.  Another 15-30 minutes could have been excised from the interviews, which are often bloated by throwing unfounded praises at the rappers.  I know it was Ice-T’s first movie, but that’s still no excuse for not knowing where the cutting room is.  C-