Various Artists

Rap Mania: The Roots of Rap [Video/DVD]

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Rap Mania: The Roots of Rap begins with an interesting concept but never fully delivers on it. Rap Mania: The Roots of Rap was a one-night concert celebrating the roots of the genre recorded at L.A.'s Palace and N.Y.C.'s famous Apollo Theater. Recorded in 1990, Rap Mania was meant to be an East-meets-West, old-school-meets-new-school rap special event with a little "We Are the World" added to the mix. It was recorded before the gangsta craze and the true coastal rivalries began. Because it is pre-Snoop Doggy Dogg, Suge Knight, Notorious B.I.G., and Tupac, the two concerts have a decidedly dated feel. When Run-D.M.C. takes the Apollo stage, it is magical. Nothing in the DVD captures the electricity of seeing a dancing crowd enjoy a song by one of the most famous rap groups of all time. Unfortunately, many of the other acts get booed during their performances (the sound from the crowd is muted out of the DVD). Some of the performers like LL Cool J, Run-D.M.C., Grandmaster Flash, Slick Rick, and others have maintained their popularity or remained in high regard since this concert was filmed. But many more have faded to beyond the margins, like 3rd Bass. An early performance by Everlast before he joined up with House of Pain is included. (It's pretty weak.) The standout performance is Biz Markie's "Just a Friend." The flip side of the DVD contains "extras" -- really only another 30 minutes of concert footage from the lesser-known acts on the bill, like Nefertiti, Whodini, and Prince Whipper Whip. The sound is poor and the performances worse on the flip side. There are some interview segments cut into the DVD version of what was a live satellite pay-per-view broadcast, and these are interesting conversations with Grandmaster Flash and others. The lack of other extras is a big loss. Rap Mania: Roots of Rap is a fun DVD, but it is hardly the true retrospective the genre deserves.

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