Rhyme and Reason

MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +2 1/2

Content: -2 1/2

Rap music has been highlighted in several films, usually with a focus on concert performances. This detailed documentary features lots of music, but is more interested in telling the stories behind that music. Director Peter Spirer interviews dozens of performers about the "hip hop" culture, encompassing break dancing, graffiti art and "scratching" - the creative manipulation of a vinyl record on a turntable - in addition to rapping. Prominent figures who share their perspectives include Ice-T, Dr. Dre, Heavy D and members of groups like Arrested Development and The Fugees. But countless other artists are featured, many who are immensely popular within hip hop circles even if they aren't well-known to the general public. The film is loosely divided into segments and interviews on specific topics. Subjects include the record business pitfalls, the negative drug influence and the sometimes unhealthy competition between east and west coast rappers. Several people emphasize that "hip hop" is more than just music; it's "a representation of our repressed culture," as one performer states. Rhyme and Reason has a very low-budget quality, but that's most likely a stylistic touch by the director that reflects his topic. The film examines its subject thoroughly, but only fans of hip hop and rap music are likely to be entertained.

Since it concentrates mostly on interviews and performances, the film has almost no violence or sexually related material. Female fans at a rap convention wear revealing bathing suits, with rear nudity on display with thong bikinis. Some women also dance in a sexually suggestive manner. Although the murder of rapper Tupac Shakur is mentioned, only the sound of gunshots and brief scenes of a fight are present when violence within rap music is discussed. Language is a greater problem, especially with 134 obscenities. Many interviewees use the "n-word" racial slur, although it's clearly an acceptable term within this cultural group. Rhyme and Reason may provide a deeper understanding of the rap music culture. But it also emphasizes mostly positive views and largely ignores its more degenerate elements. Nevertheless, the offensive language will still cast the film in a negative light for discriminating viewers.

Preview Reviewer: Mark Perry
Miramax Films, 375 Greenwich, New York, NY 10013

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Many (18) times - Mild 6, Moderate 12

Obscene Language: Many (134) times (s-word 78, f-word 52, other 4)

Profanity: Few (3) times - Regular 1 (G 1), Exclamatory 2

Violence: Few times - Moderate (gunfire, fight scene)

Sex: None

Nudity: Few times (female rear nudity with thong bathing suits); near nudity few times (women in bikinis)

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: Few times (sensuous dancing)

Drugs: Few times (beer and wine drinking, smoking, marijuana use)

Other: Racial slur (n-word) used 43 times

Running Time: 90 minutes
Intended Audience: Hip hop fans

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