A documentary so unstructured that it sometimes resembles rushes rather than a finished film, THE SHOW panders to rap and hip-hop fans, never deigning to provide context for or commentary on its subjects--presumably because anyone so uncool as to need it obviously doesn't deserve the time
of day. Its attitude is flawless, if obnoxious, but by most conventional documentary standards, THE SHOW is a failure.
Structurally, THE SHOW is a standard-issue, MTV-style music "rockumentary" that mixes concert footage and interviews with artists, record company executives--notably hip-hop pioneer Russell Simmons, one of the film's presenters and its co-executive producer--and various hangers-on. The show of the
title is a 1994 concert at the Philadelphia Armory, featuring a stellar lineup of rappers, including most of the artists featured in the interview segments. THE SHOW opens and closes with scenes of Simmons visiting rapper Slick Rick in jail, where he's serving a sentence for second-degree murder.
For no apparent reason, the majority of the performance footage--but not all--is in B&W, while the offstage footage is in color.
Perhaps the most interesting thing THE SHOW reveals is the generational and aesthetic differences that divide a world which appears to most outsiders as an uniform realm of throbbing hostility. One particularly telling sequence shows hip-hop elder statesmen like Afrika Bambaataa and Kurtis Blow
sitting around a table debating the finer points of rap's history and kvetching about the younger generation, for all the world like a pack of old vaudevillians at the Carnegie Deli, reminiscing and deploring the youth of today. The observations of rap veterans like LL Cool J and members of Run
DMC about the increasing hostility of hip-hop are also revealing. The younger artists, almost to a man (there are virtually no women artists on view), appear rancorous, unfocused, and inarticulate in their interviews. To hear one after another mumble, swear, and repeatedly lose his train of
thought is to wonder whether director Brian Robinson went out of his way to capture them at their worst. He also records members of Tha Dogg Pound arguing bitterly with him and one another, as well as a minor mutiny among the members of Wu-Tang Clan.
THE SHOW features performance clips of an impressive array of hip-hop's current stars--including Naughty by Nature, Dr. Dre, Notorious B.I.G. and Warren G. But it's extremely repetitious. The concert footage all looks alike, and the interviews are numbingly similar--how many times must we hear
that rap is aggressive and expletive-filled because it reflects life in the 'hood? A series of scenes in which Japanese fans mimic rap's cadences and trademark gestures--crude pelvic thrusts and hostile hand gestures--is funny but cheap. (Extreme profanity.)
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- Released: 1995
- Rating: R
- Review: A documentary so unstructured that it sometimes resembles rushes rather than a finished film, THE SHOW panders to rap and hip-hop fans, never deigning to provide context for or commentary on its subjects--presumably because anyone so uncool as to need it o… (more)