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Hip-Hop Fridays: Check Out The "Street Credentials" DVD From Insomniac

Those of you who have been coming to this website for years should know how significant I think the mixtape and street DVD game has been. Unfortunately, as is the case with many other aspects of the Hip-Hop culture or industry, that sector is dying. Or, as my friend, the legendary Hip-Hop photographer Ernie Paniccioli might say, ‘on life support.’

So, you can imagine my pleasure in being able to enjoy a Hip-Hop DVD which shows a rare balance. The “Street Credentials” DVD offered by Insomniac DVD is the unusual offering, presenting an even mixture of historical, cultural, political and entrepreneurial elements of Hip-Hop.

A few Fridays ago I sat back with a friend and found myself unable to pull away from this DVD. It struck me as the only documentary, of late, that allows its interesting subjects to speak for themselves, with commentary supporting what was featured and not vice-versa. Immortal Technique, Kool Keith, Saul Williams, Aesop Rock and KutMasta Kurt are all allowed to make their own case, as the DVD lets the tape roll taking you into their minds and hearts. This was especially true as I watched street basketball legend Pee Wee Kirkland comment on the condition of our community juxtaposed to the rap game. I have seen him featured on countless DVDs, but this is the first one where I really felt his humanity and wisdom was the focus of attention rather than his street game legend.

We can thank IZ-REAL and Tony Samuel, among others for this outstanding production which is one half documentary and one-half in-depth interview features. The way that Street Credentials” is arranged is what makes it unique. It is the entire DVD rather than any individual profiled that is the star.

For a variety of reasons, of late I have been pondering the state of the cultural force and industry that has been the most influential over the last 30 years on America and the world’s youth. There is much to lament, and there are still many things to celebrate. My position is that the generation, from its mistakes, errors, failures and accomplishments is now qualified to perform a mighty work. But that work can only be performed if one understands the confluence of forces that gave ‘birth’ to Hip-Hop and which have affected its evolution and maturation.

I honestly can say that over the last few years I have seen numerous DVDs which do an excellent job of telling various aspects of that story – lyricism, political consciousness, underground artists, the business side - I have not found one that was sufficiently all-inclusive that I could provide it as a definitive reference point as a source of information for all members of the generation. But whether one is an aspiring rap artist in Africa; a political activist in Mexico; a arts professor in London; a dancer in Jamaica; a rap producer from Georgia; a spoken word artist in New York City; or a street hustler on the West Coast; this is the DVD, that I would give as an introduction to further discussion about this phenomenon.

When one considers the background of IZ-REAL, a Bronx native formerly signed to Bad Boy Records and Tony Samuel, a Jersey native and artist himself – it is easy to see why “Street Credentials” is the way it is. The documentary, way it is arranged and its features grow out of the informed worldview of individuals who have not only observed the culture and industry, but have actually participated in it – as artists, businessmen, consumers and members of the community that produced Hip-Hop.

The best way to watch this DVD, I find is in two parts. Take the time to first watch the documentary edit and then, perhaps on another day, check out the full-length interview featurettes and bonus features (especially IZ-REAL’s visit to the Juvenile Correctional Center Visit). Take it in. Let it soak in, enjoy it, and then keep it in the back of your mind as you consider the current state of the culture and industry that has touched us all.

Your may see and hear things clearer than ever before.

Cedric Muhammad

Friday, June 23, 2006

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