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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: Who was the hardest out of everybody to get on film?
A: I would say Eminem was difficult because of his schedule, but once I got to him I was with him all day. Some days we would interview up to four people, which presented obvious challenges, but all the guys that worked with me on the film understood that. For example, we interviewed Nas in a recording studio at 2:00 AM. You’ve got to have a “run & gun” type of crew when you’re shooting a documentary – they’ve got to be willing to run, gun, light and shoot very quickly.
Q: What do you want people to take away from this film?
A: I just want people to walk away realizing that rap is a serious art form. When I started rapping, if you said you were a rapper, people were like ‘Wow, you’re like Chuck D!” and it had an importance to it. Now I think people look at it like ‘Ok, well, it’s pop”. A lot of rappers are clowns so it’s just not as important. I think that rappers will walk away from this saying “This is really cool” and I think non rap fans will say “I never knew that about hip-hop”. Maybe they’ll have a new respect for it.
I think the biggest criticism of the film will be “I didn’t see my favorite rapper” and that’s a valid criticism, but like I said, I would have to shoot a seven hour movie.
Q: Speaking of your own career, how did you as an artist to develop your voice, how did you become Ice-T?
A: I think you talk and make music and then you listen to your fans. They will start to tell you “right there, that’s what I like. I like that.” And you start to listen. You don’t listen to the haters, you listen to the people who are giving you constructive criticism, including your fans. I remember when I did ‘6 in the Mornin’ and I thought it was a throw-away track but everyone else was like “No, that’s the shit!” I think a good artist has his own voice, but he also listens to his fans and lets them tell him when he’s on point. That’s very important.
Q: Who would you say is your biggest creative influence? Would it be a rapper or somebody else?
A: It’s a lot of people. It’s George Clinton because of the outrageousness of the sounds and originality of Funkadelic and Parliament and how he created those different bands. It’s James Brown for straight up funk – no one could ever or will ever get funkier than James. Jimi Hendrix was a guy from the army that became the greatest guitar player in the world and I think he was only playing for like two years.
I like original people who step away from what everyone else is doing. They do their thing and make it the hip thing. I like risk-takers and in rap that would have to be Public Enemy because I have never seen a movement like they had, and RUN-DMC who took rap to the big leagues – concert level shit.
Q: You ask in the movie ‘Why isn’t rap respected?’ How would you answer that question?
A: I think Marley Marl said it best, it’s like nobody has said it deserves respect – nobody has stood up and said “hey, respect it.” Somebody in the movie said blues and jazz weren’t respected in their time and were just considered ‘the other art form’. It is interesting to me that I can now do a movie about classic rap. That’s how long hip-hop has been around.
In this film we capture the moments where you get a lot of the patriarchs of the game next to each other. Consider other artists – you can’t get Rembrandt sitting next to Van Gogh sitting next to Michelangelo, but we have that in this film. Hopefully this will be a classic when we double back and watch it in 50 years.
Q: Are there any stories or anecdotes that you can share from the filming?
A: The best part for me was to see all these cats and to talk to them about where they are in their lives right now. I got to see Run who is now a preacher – that’s crazy! It’s was great to see a lot of people again and be able to put them in a film together. It was an amazing moment, and as this movie starts to show, I hope all of them come back and say ‘Wow! I’m glad I was a part of this’.