THE GREAT HIP HOP HOAX (2013)
This is the true story of two Scottish rappers, Silibil ‘n’ Brains, tired of the music industry not taking them seriously, who move to London, put on fake American accent, pretend to be from California and dupe the entire music industry into taking them on. On the face of it an amusing, if not entirely original story. But it soon develops into something very deep and thought provoking.
We start with the boys gigging around their home town of Dundee and trying to get signed. No label was interested. Then, for a laugh, they made some phone calls with an American accent and told people they were from California. Quicker than you can say “apple pie” they are signed to Sony records, playing gigs at Brixton Academy and blowing the massive advance they had been given on booze and women.
During this process, they were obsessed with filming each other, so the film contains a wealth of intimate footage of them fooling about and being the life and soul of the party (or pain in the neck, depending on your outlook). We also get current interviews with them, record company execs, friends and family.
As the film unfolds, we unsurprisingly get to see the shallowness of the music industry and the desire to shift units; US execs pretending to know fictitious towns in Californian to avoid looking unhip, middle class white guys pretending to be down with the ghetto kids – and so on.
At the outset these two guys come over like Robin Hood type characters, ripping off the industry and having a laugh. But as the film develops their characters become more complicated. It becomes difficult to know if they are more interested in their art or fame and fortune. Are they playing the ‘the man’ at his own game and winning, or are they desperate to be part of the machine? Are they geniuses or just really shallow and desperate? We see what starts out as a bromance turn sour and we see confident kids get sucked in by their own alter-egos. Are they really starting to believe that their own hype?
Not wanting to give out a spoiler, the film ends in a much squidgier mess than one might expect from the promising start. Rather than going out with a bang, the end for ‘the band’ is not even a whimper. But perhaps that is what makes the film – you start thinking you know where it is going but it is anything but predictable. This film is as much for psychology students as students of the music industry. And whilst the film may seem like the end of these guys, discussions with the director after the film indicate it might just be the end of the beginning, before they move on to another, very different chapter. Watch this space.
Director Jeanie Finlay