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RAP, RACE AND EQUALITY

Australia, 1993 (MIFF 1994, Documentaries)

Director: Stephen Elliott, Grant Elliott

Is Rap the Devil's music, mindless and often unintelligible, or a dangerous battle cry for increasingly tribalised and disaffected Black American youth? In the case of the early 80s release of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five's The Message, it is none of these; it's a warning. It warns of revolution: "Don't/push/me/coz/I'm/close/to/the/edge".

In recent years performers like Public Enemy and Ice T have had their lyrics banned from sale or are censored, which in their view represents a fear of their challenge to the status quo. Melbourne filmmaking brothers Stephen and Grant Elliott travelled to the US with the aim of exploring rap's social and political context. Boldly, their video documentary confronts this cultural movement's key figures, posing some sticky questions concerning sexism in lyrics and the extent of moral responsibility that ought to be taken by performers over inflammatory, controversial subject matter.

Rappers interviewed by the Elliots include Ice T, Ice Cube, Queen Latifah and KRS One who prove themselves to be active participants in an onrush of social change. The range of the artists' responses is illuminating and varied, covering issues such as racism in America, economic and social inequality, and race and gender relations.

Rap, Race And Equality goes way beyond simply discussing musical form, rather, as the title suggests, it's an up-to-the-minute mosaic exposing the hopes, frustrations, negativity and needs of young black America.

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