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THE HIP HOP PROJECT, 2007
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Movie Reviews - The Hip Hip Project

Read The Popcorn Review's INTERVIEW WITH THE HIP HOP PROJECT CREATIVE TEAM

Robert's Review

"The Hip Hop Project" chronicles a group of New York City teens who, over the course of several years, transform their life experiences into powerful hip hop music… rapping about things that are important to them and using hip hop as a tool for self-development and self-improvement. This inspirational documentary traces the evolution of this award-winning outreach program created by Kazi (Chris "Kazi" Rolle), a former homeless teen turned mentor. His goal was to create a safe environment where he could challenge these young people to express themselves and write music about the real issues affecting their lives; not just all the common crap most rappers and hip hop artists focus on (i.e. bitches, hoes, pimping, drugs, money, cars, guns, etc.). Before Kazi mentored them, many of the teens involved in the hip hop project were rapping about those things… imitating all the big-name rap stars they see in the media. "The Hip Hop Project" takes and intimate look at the lives of Kazi and two of his students, Princess and Canon, as they strive to overcome daunting life obstacles to produce a collaborative album.

"The Hip Hop Project" impressed me on many levels. First of all, the cinematography is really outstanding. First-time direct/cinematographer/editor Matt Ruskin seems to have a natural knack for creating visually compelling scenes. Secondly, anyone who knows me knows that I'm not a big fan of rap or hip hop. I really don't like hearing all the standard crap that so-called "artists" rap about these days (as I mentioned above). Therefore, Kazi really impressed me with his story (coming from a broken family, living in an orphanage, later being homeless for several years, then starting this tremendously successful project) and his dedication/persistence in teaching these teens to rap about things that mattered to them personally, not just all the crap they're used to seeing "artists" rap about. Watching Kazi and these teens overcome many life obstacles and really bond together to make the hip hop project flourish was really inspirational and motivational. I think they've done a great thing here and I'm quite impressed with the story and the movie overall. I'd highly recommend checking it out. It took them quite a bit of effort to fund this project and this movie (in fact, some of that ordeal is covered in the movie too) and thanks to people like Bruce Willis and Queen Latifah (who later came on as executive producers and donated lots of the stuff they needed for the project), they were able to finally make it all happen.

All in all, I'd give this movie 4 STARS (out of 5). Re-watch value: MEDIUM

Brett's Review

"The Hip Hop Project" is a documentary about a group of New York City teenagers transforming their life stories into powerful works of art, using hip hop as a vehicle for self-development. The documentary traces the evolution of this award-winning outreach program created by Kazi, a formerly homeless teenager turned youth mentor. With the goal of developing a principled group of young artists, Kazi creates a safe environment in which he challenges young people to express themselves freely and write music about the real issues affecting their lives. It's an intimate look at the lives of Kazi and two of his students, Princess and Canon, as they strive to overcome daunting life obstacles to produce a collaborative album.

"The Hip Hop Project" was a very motivating and compelling movie, watching the lives of these teenagers change as they worked toward a common goal, and watching their transformation was remarkable. I really enjoyed watching how the documentary unfolded and the final album was finally made, as well as the background of "The Hip Hop Project" creation. Everyone has seen the story about kids on the streets turning to music to get out, this is a true account of that story, however the movie really didn't make it clear about what happens to kids who drop out of the program (I did however have a chance to ask Kazi about that…see the interview). I also find that the movie works best when everyone is together talking about the next steps, and writing the lyrics for the album.

Overall Rating: 3 Stars (out of 5). Re-Watch Value: Moderate (I might purchase this to support the program.)

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