The idea behind The Hip-Hop Project is an inspiring one. Abandoned by his mother as a child and forced to live on the streets, Chris “Kazi” Rolle created the program in 1999 to help give underprivileged high school students a creative outlet, in the hopes of keeping them in school. This program was branched off of another program for underprivileged high school students called Art Start, which was founded by producer of The Hip-Hop Project, Scott K. Rosenberg.
Instead of chronicling the stories of these high school students, the film chooses to follow them as they record their first CD. We see the kids perform in front of prospective investors, and then we see Bruce Willis and Russell Simmons arrive on screen to support the kids. All of this is well and good, but how did they get here? Where are the personal stories to allow audience connection? The only member of the Hip-Hop Project who gets good screen time with her personal story is “Princess,” who had an abortion and raps about her struggles with the consequences. One of the other students, “Cannon,” talks briefly about having to deal with his mom who was in and out of the hospital after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The other kids are barely discussed at all.
This film really had potential to be uplifting and inspiring, but it failed to find its footing. Much of the screen time that should have been devoted to the young people of the Hip-Hop Project was given to the celebrities who supported them, such as Russell Simmons, Bruce Willis, and Doug E. Fresh. And more screen time is devoted to full performances of these rap songs that could have simply been teased, as a selling point for the CD. Director Matt Ruskin once assisted Darren Aronofsky on Requiem for a Dream, but his directing style is choppy here. He obviously has a passion for Kazi’s work with these teenagers, but The Hip-Hop Project doesn’t achieve its full potential.
Presented in a 1.81:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Surround Sound.
The Making of the Hip-Hop Project – Producer Scott Rosenberg talks about the history of the Hip-Hop Project and his Art Start project. I would have loved to have seen some of this in the film itself. Also, we see reactions from people after seeing the film for the first time. (8:23)
Kazi Meets His Father – After Kazi meets his mother for the first time in the film, he also finds his biological father. His father is also a musician, and he and Kazi play some music together. (7:00)
Deleted Scenes – There are 5 deleted scenes and all of them could have been included in the film. These deleted scenes give more background into the kids’ lives.
Additional Performances – All of these are wonderful, there are 4 total. Especially worth checking out are “Dusk Till Dawn” by the Hip-Hop Project, and “A Million” by Ki.
Judging by the celebrity endorsement and the care taken by the producers and director, the Hip Hop Project has inspired many people. I just wish they’d have taken the time to inspire the film audience too.
Image Entertainment presents The Hip-Hop Project. Directed by: Matt Ruskin. Starring: Bruce Willis, Doug E. Fresh, Russell Simmons, Chris “Kazi” Rolle, Sway. Running time: 85 minutes. Rating: PG-13. Released on DVD: January 5, 2010. Available at Amazon.com.
Tags: Bruce Willis, Queen Latifah