Wednesday, April 20, 2011


I'm pretty hesitant to comment on this documentary because no matter what i say (which is somewhat critical), I fear some people will blindly consider my criticisms to be "homophobic" (even though my issues with this documentary have absolutely nothing to do with the subjects being gay). It takes a lot of guts to make a film like 'Pick Up The Mic' - a documentary about the gay hip-hop scene (mainly focusing on artists of color in northern california). I really do commend the filmmakers for taking on a project like this. But...I had two major issues with it.
My first issue was the actual music that was showcased in the film. It wasnt that good. Not the content or the lyrics (which mostly talked about sex or the struggles of being a gay black or Latino person within hip-hop), but the gay artist's actual raping ability (and production). This documentary is partially about MUSIC. At a certain point you have to rely on your skill as an artist and not rely on the novelty of being a "gay hip-hop artist". I understand that trying to get any kind of mainstream success or steady fan base within hip-hop while being gay is damn near impossible, but it doesn't help your case when you can barely rap on beat and are fumbling over your words in live performances (this was a problem I personally found with many of the artists featured in the documentary). And trust me, i know hip-hop quite well. In fact, I'd be so arrogant to say i know the culture more than the average fan, so please save your comments about how i "don't know hip-hop music" or how i don't have "good taste". I realize "good" and "bad" is all subjective, but i have faith that the average, knowledgeable hip-hop fan will agree with me about the music in 'Pick Up The Mic'. This issue draws a lot of comparison to the Asian rap artist Jin. He got a lot of hype years ago for being a mainstream Asian rapper, and when his album finally dropped almost no one bought it. Years later, many music journalists and hardcore fans of Jin tried to blame it on people not accepting him because he was Asian. There is SOME truth to that, but those journalists and loyal Jin fans never seem to mention the fact that his debut album was not very good. At some point, skill & ability has to count for something. In 'Pick Up The Mic', there's a lot of scenes from live shows of the featured gay hip-hop artists performing, and it almost makes you want to cringe at how bad some of the performance footage comes off. Some are either trying too hard to be/sound tough, while some need to polish up their clarity & breath control. If this documentary was supposed to showcase talent, it didn't do a very good job.
My next issue is a little more serious. This documentary managed to do something that no other hip-hop film managed to do which was play in to the underlying racism that many people have towards hip-hop, without even realizing it or meaning too. Hear me out...we all know that most people's hatred towards hip-hop has to do with the fact that it's a (mostly) black art form. Sure, there are plenty of people who just simply don't like hip-hop music without any hidden malicious reasons, but you and i both know that there's a large majority of folks out there who might as well be saying; "i don't like black people" when they say the phrase; "i don't like rap music". It's coded language. Lets be real - with 'Pick Up The Mic', there's this constant reminder about how homophobic hip-hop culture can be (and i recognize that it is) to the point where it almost feels like the filmmakers are saying (without even meaning to) that hip-hop and rap music is the ONLY music genre to EVER be homophobic or discriminate towards gays. Now, you and i both know that hip-hop culture is not very accepting of gay people, but it damn sure ain't the only music culture to do so. Everything form country music (with its connection to right wing/conservative values) to heavy metal all have issues with gay people, but once again, hip-hop and/or rap music is vilified as the first & only to do something wrong like it's the ONLY non-progressive musical genre. It's just like the term "bitch" within hip-hop. The minute people heard rap artists (who were mostly black) use that term to describe (SOME) women (which SOME women are), the entire world acted as if they had never heard such a word before (or any type of profanity for that matter). Its like all of a sudden rap music took the heat for inventing terms like; "bitch", "mother fucker", etc. I expect outsiders to paint hip-hop in a negative light, but the last thing i would expect is people within the culture to vilify it. That doesn't make sense to me. I understand that hip-hop & rap music has some growing to do, but so do other forms of music. The problem is you don't get that from watching 'Pick Up The Mic'. Watching this documentary you'd swear that hip-hop/rap is the only musical culture behind the times.

Because of these things, its difficult for me to support or even defend this documentary from a hip-hop standpoint. I don't question the struggles that gay people face today. But no matter what it's a one of a kind film (probably the first to do what it did) and that counts for something.

You can watch 'Pick Up The Mic' on for free or just click the link below...

pick up the mic


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