While hip-hop DVDs are becoming more and more popular, a majority of them are just documents or advertisements for the artists who release them. Many DVDs advertise that they give you a ‘behind the scenes’ look at the hip-hop industry, but it’s rare that the viewer gets a real education about the industry. ‘Inside Hip-Hop’ is a series of interviews (conducted by Fat Man Scoop) with some of the leaders in contemporary hip-hop. From Baby of Cash Money Records to Russell Simmons of Def Jam Records to Eminem’s manager, ‘Inside Hip-Hop’ attempts give a real insight into how labels and managers work.
There are no videos, no live performances, no dancing girls. It is just Fat Man Scoop and the mover or shaker he is interviewing. He attempts to have them reveal their secrets of success. For fans who only like the music or the artist, this may be boring journalism, but for hip-hop lovers who are curious about the industry, ‘Inside Hip-Hop’ is a very interesting and insightful document on the business end of rap in the new millennium.
The most interesting interviews are with Damon Dash, CEO of Roc-A-Fella Records and Russell Simmons. Damon Dash, in particular, possesses both the street mentality and knowledge along with an astute business sense all mixed in with a hunger for money. One aspect that makes the interviews interesting is the educational value of it. For example, some people do not know that many of these CEOs make more money from their clothing line than they do from their record label.
The DVD covers different aspects of the industry, too. Damon Dash and Russell Simmons are obvious choices, but the film also includes Paul Rosenberg, Eminem’s manager as well as Mona Scott, president of Violator Management.
While the well-spoken and very intelligent people like Lyor Cohen, Mona Scott, and Steve Rifkin show both a love for money and business, the DVD also features two very successful CEOs who do not look and sound as astute. Baby from Cash Money Records is not ‘game spitting’ here (thank God!). While he does have that stupid look on his face, the man worked extremely hard to get to this point in his life. In the interview, he also tells tales about selling music out of his car and problems with starting the label. Issues like over-pressing the vinyl is also discussed.
Fat Joe is another guy who does not sound very smart but has made extremely clever and adventurous business decisions. It’s actually quite funny when he talks about his own Terror Squad. He calls each member out. One is incredibly moody. One sleeps all the time. Another member only works when he feels like it. Then, Fat Joe also talks about his work with Remi Martin and the differences dealing with female artists. Fat Joe remarks how expensive the haircuts are.
Fat Man Scoop always had a strong personality on the radio and as a hype man. For those who may not know, he was on MF Grimm’s ‘International Rules’ and Faith Evans’ ‘Be Faithful’. His voice is not only unique but also usually loud. Here, Fat Man Scoop is much more laid back as he plays the role of a journalist. For the most part, he asks interesting questions and refrains from being silly. The real gems of the documentary are the remarks from the CEOs and managers themselves.
As a DVD itself, there are some minor problems. First, the menus are not only cheap looking but very cheesy with their fake graffiti walls. Second, there is not one extra feature. There is not even a commercial for other DVDs! What about bloopers or out-takes? There is nothing fancy about this DVD. Director Marcos Antonio Miranda does not use any camera techniques and the lighting leaves much to be desired. Nobody has any make-up and Paul Rosenberg’s pockmarks are evident.
‘Inside Hip-Hop’ is basically a bare-bones documentary of interviews where the main goal of the DVD is to educate and reveal the secrets of success. There’s no music, no booty, and nothing fancy.
Thankfully, many secrets are revealed and sometimes it’s quite shocking to realize that these people, who seem to be made of money, are not living the flossed out life portrayed by the media. While some interviews are better than others, each one does have insightful moments whether you respect or like the person or not. It is very surprising that other important hip-hop icons were not included. Where is Puff Daddy (or P.Diddy)? Master P? Dr. Dre? Rza? Producers like Timbaland and The Neptunes would also be interesting additions to the list.
In many ways, the DVD is like a manual or advice for people who wish to start a label or company in the hip-hop world. Without the glitz and glamour of typical hip-hop features, ‘Inside Hip-hop’ does a successful job of giving the viewer an educational and perceptive look at the business end of the hip-hop industry.
Inside Hip Hop (2003)
Dir. Marcos Antonio Miranda
Stars: Russell Simmons, Damon Dash, Steve Rifkind, Mona Scott, Kevin Liles, Craig Kallman, Baby, Fat Joe
Genre: Urban, Documentary