Every week, Wondering Sound contributor Ami Armstrong recommends a music film available to stream.
At its core Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap, a documentary directed by Ice-T, is about crafting a perfect story — the perfect rap, the perfect hip-hop beat. It’s a celebration of the most positive aspects of the genre and a look at what happens when an artist’s talent, ardor, practice and focus align.
The title of the film is a direct reference to music and arts programming being cut from public schools. Rapper Lord Jamar says, “We created something from nothing with hip-hop…That’s what the whole spirit of hip-hop is…We took the fucking record player and turned it into an instrument, which it wasn’t supposed to be.” Rap grew from these artists literally having to create their songs from nothing; just a pen, paper and their voice — using their body for beats instead of instruments.
Ice-T interviews the genre’s top performers throughout who each share their own insights into the genre (Ice-T offers his own recommendation for performers — that they use the audience as Teleprompters when losing a lyric during a show.) Kanye West describes how he learned more from losing his first rap battle than if he had won. Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def) considers hip-hop to be an extension of folk music and encourages aspiring artists to let their geography help shape their sound.
In the doc, Dr. Dre refers to rap as a language you need to know in order to enjoy it. If you don’t know how to listen to it, it won’t make sense. But when it does make sense, the connection is impactful.
For extra streaming pleasure, check the story Darryl “DMC” McDaniels told at The Moth about how Sarah Mclachlan kept him from committing suicide.
Stream Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap on Netflix and watch the trailer below.