Top positive review
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A nice big Fcuk you to the record industry
on 25 September 2013
With a mixture of interviews with the perpetrators and their family and friends, footage of their exploits, and some animation to fill the gaps, The Great Hip Hop Hoax presents us with Billy Boyd and Gavin Bain's journey from rejection to elation and ultimately around to the implosion of their once tight friendship..
Sent packing by men in suits who hate music but hold the purse strings, Scottish rappers Gavin and Billy desperately seek validation and recognition of their not inconsiderable talents, but it seems the industry isn't ready for a Scottish rap dup.
As a joke and in frustration, they affect American accents when making one of many calls to agents, promoters and venues. The reaction is instantly and infinitely more positive. "Sure, we have a spot for you guys."
So begins the duo's invention of, and total immersion in, the roles of fictional Californian Rappers, Silibil N Brains. For two years (five in Bains' case) they lived, performed, and formed relationships as Americans. Essentially they became their fictional selves. They were rewarded for their natural talent and their carefully (sort of) crafted lies with an agent (in the form of grotesquely clichéd Jonathon Shalit) and a deal with Sony. So begins months of partying, women, drugs, fights and attempted suicide.
The documentary, whilst hugely entertaining in portraying the pairs' inventiveness, confidence, determination, charisma and gallousness (if you're not Scottish, google it), is essentially a study of how living a lie, completely, every hour of every day, consumes a person and erases who they thought they were.
Watching the protagonists change from cheerful, charming and very talented chancers to paranoid, destructive, distrustful, jealous dark reflections of themselves is as painful as it is fascinating.
For me the documentary captured perfectly, the "fcuk you" attitude that most Scots possess and the desire of Bain and Boyd to prove to an industry who makes decisions on marketability rather than true talent, that they got it wrong. The early frolics and wide-eyed naivety of the pair is offset beautifully by the darker moments of the film, making the scenes of self-destruction all the more touching.
Why four stars? I feel the makers missed the point a little on several important fronts. The film and the story seem to be being sold as "Come marvel at the fake Rappers." These guys might've been fake Americans but throughout the musical talent they possess as a genuinely quality rap duo explodes from the screen.
Also, I felt that the film was a little judgemental, at times cutting between family scenes from Boyd and a lonely-looking Bain standing looking lost on a bridge, still `chasing the dream'. In reality both men have had huge success in very different ways and the director chose to use a contrast of fortunes that simply isn't there. It seemed to me a judgement of the value of a 'stable' family life, over that of a hard working musician, which is a strange distinction for a film-maker to choose to present and in my opinion sold both these grafters short.
I'd happily recommend the documentary to anyone who loves a good, improbable but true story and am looking forward to the musical return of Silibil n Brains later this month.
California Schemin by Bain, Gavin (2010)