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The director of the film “Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap,” Ice-T sat down with the production team to answer a few of their questions. This interview has been broken into three parts.
Q: East coast and West coast rappers seem to have very different voices, talk a little about how you think each coast has contributed to the game.
A: Well, I mean, I think Mos Def said it best in the film. He said that wherever youâre from will dictate how the music will sound. New York will have a much more a static sound because of the life of New York, you know; you catch a train, thereâs so many people, its so intense, most kids are walking around the streets with headphones on dealing with all the visceral stuff which is really intense, whereas when you go to LA, kids are in cars, theyâre laid back a little bit more, they got more of that Dr. Dre, G-Funk sound which matches with California.
We didnât go too deep into the south on this one because we didnât have enough time, but the South also has its own sound. As far as the artists being different, theyâre really not. Thereâs not much difference between an Ice Cube, an Eminem and a Chuck D. The key is to rap about where you are from. Thatâs very important in hip-hop.
Q: You obviously set out to speak with the masters of hip-hop and were able to get access to some of the most respected and successful players in the game; how did you make your wish list?
A: I just went into my address book. I was brought into rap by Afrika Islam, Bambataa and Zulu Nation. One of my first records was with Melle Mel, and Grandmaster Caz was one of the early people who mentored me. Once I became an artist I was fortunate enough to become friends with Dre and tour with Eminem and Ice Cube.
When youâre in the game as you are you have access to some of the most respected and successful players in the game; how did you make your wish list?
A: I just went into my address book. I was brought into rap by Afrika Islam, Bambataa and Zulu Nation. One of my first records was with Melle Mel, and Grandmaster Caz was one of the early people who mentored me.
Once I became an artist I was fortunate enough to become friends with Dre and tour with Eminem and Ice Cube. When youâre in the game as long as Iâve been, over 25 years, you come in contact with all these people. This movie isnât âgo see your favorite rappers,â itâs more like âgo see Iceâs favorite rappers.â
Q: Is there anyone you wish you would have been able to get but didnât work out because of timing?
A: I would have loved to have been able get every rapper, but that would have been a four hour movie. I would have had to shoot it like Avatar. Itâs just too big. There are lots of people in the South that I would have loved to talk to, like Lil Wayne or Scarface. We just didnât have enough time or the ability to go after all of them.
Q: Who surprised you the most in their interview in terms of what they had to say about the art of rap?
A: Eminem was really deep; he started to talk about personal issues, about overdosing and things a lot of people donât know. Kanye was good, he was very honest and to the point. I think Dr. Dre was very candid with his insight. You donât see one frame of this movie where someone is trying to pose or posture. Everyone is totally honest because Iâm doing the interview and they canât really posture, they canât pose. They have to be totally real.
Q: Did anyone surprise you about who they were inspired by?
A: Eminem spoke on Treach which was very interesting. Treach is known to be one of the best rappers ever, but you know, who would have thought that he was Eminemâs inspiration? KRS-One actually told us a story about where he got his name and how he was connected to the Hari-Krishnas. We didnât get that in the movie but I didnât know KRS comes from Hari-Krishna, wow! Thereâs a lot more information that we couldnât get into the film; we have about an hour to two hours on every single one of these artists. What you see in the film is just a teaser for the long version.
Q: How was the transition to filmmaker after already having succeeded as a musician and an actor?
A: It was easy. Making films is like making any product, you have to know what you want, you have to know how to get it done by any means and you have to know when itâs finished. You also have to surround yourself with experts like all the guys on my crew. The sound men, my cinematographers, all these guys were experts. So as a director you can turn loose if you know that the people you are filming are on point. You can let go. My job was really just to get the in-depth interviews out of the artists. It was relatively simple â when you have a really good crew youâre going to make a good film.