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Battle for L.A., The Print E-mail
Tuesday, 20 January 2004

The Battle For L.A.

Xdrnex Films
MPAA rating: Not Rated
starring: In-Q, Propaganda, Ralphi, Macho, Dert, Jurny Big
release year: 2003
film rating: Two-and-a-Half Stars
sound/picture: Two Stars
reviewed by: Jessica Amen

“The Battle for L.A.” is an approximately one-hour documentary on freestyle rapping in Los Angeles. It focuses on six main freestyle rappers, but also includes footage and coverage of other rappers, DJs and break dancers. One of the first lines in the movie caught my attention right off the bat: “It’s a way to get out your feelings against someone without having to resort to violence.” This was not what I expected from a bunch of tough LA streetwise MCs.

The documentary follows these MCs, talking with them, asking questions and filming them freestyle on camera. Dispersed throughout is footage of actual rap battles taking place at both the Green Club in Venice and the Poetry Lounge in Hollywood. Even after living in LA for over five years, these venues were new to my ears. This is some real underground shit.

The documentary quality is home movie-style, no effects and basically not professional-looking at all, but I think this was the point of the film, to show the rawness of this “underground society.” The editing is decent, with a good amount of interviews flashing to rap battles, DJs and break dancers thrown in between.

Among the rap battles and free-styling are features on a couple of DJs, which are not particularly entertaining, and break dancers, which are so entertaining, you wish there were more of them. It’s fascinating watching the dancers and seeing how they’ve been influenced by hip-hop, jazz, ballet and more. Unfortunately, there is very little footage of the dancing included on this DVD.

I was very entertained through the first half of the DVD, watching the rappers talk about the underground rap battle scene and watching the battles themselves, lips moving a million miles a minute, throwing insult after insult toward each other. But I soon came to realize, that’s all it was: insults. I’m better then you, you suck, I can rap better, you’re a pu**y, etc. And while the quickness of the rappers’ rhyming lyrics boggled my mind, the content of their rap began to bore me. Where is the political content, world issues or anything other then F*** this and F*** you?

It was a scary realization that the youth of, at least the streets of LA if not the entire state of California or even the nation, has little to no knowledge of anything but “frontin’,” or if they do know what’s going on in the world that exists outside of their raps, they choose to not use it within their rhymes.

Perhaps this is the point of a rap battle, to tear your opponent down with insults, but I refuse to believe that there isn’t a more creative, more insightful way of doing it.

Now, not every rapper is like this. The only two girls featured on the DVD were by far the best rappers, one throwing in the line “paper cuts on tongues from literary experiments.” Wow, a metaphor, things are looking up.

I found it difficult to resist the temptation to fast-forward at certain points of the film because it never got any more interesting.

I took on this review with excitement and anticipation, having been a huge hip hop/rap fan since I was 14. But I was sorely disappointed halfway through the film due its sameness of content. There are definitely interesting and intriguing sections and the talent these kids have is undeniable. I just question the relevance of this film, because the rappers don’t seem to do it for the entertainment of others, but rather their own reputation and pride, which is fine, but it doesn’t provide for a good DVD for the average consumer.

Director Darren Doane is planning to continue making these documentaries, moving on next to New York. All I have to say is that, for Doane’s sake, I hope the N.Y. battle rappers have more insight then their West Coast counterparts.

more details
sound format:
2.0 Digital Stereo
aspect ratio(s):
special features: One Rap Battle, Three Freestyles
comments: email us here...
reference system
DVD player: Sony DAV S300 DVD Player (Sony Dream System)
receiver: Sony DAV S300 DVD Player/Receiver
main speakers: Sony DAV S300 Satellite Speakers
center speaker: Sony DAV S300 Satellite Speakers
rear speakers: Sony DAV S300 Satellite Speakers
monitor: 27" Daewoo Flat Screen

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