Stretch and Bobbito: Radio That Changed Lives full movie review - Tape That
I'm pretty sure I've got a shoebox or two of endless minutes of recorded-off-the-radio hip hop from the Nineties.
Sadly, growing up in Luton, I had to make do with Tim Westwood's 'Radio 1 Rap Show' every Friday night at 11-2AM and every Saturday, 9-midnight. The Friday night show was usually better. Every week, I would record all six hours, sometimes adding some minutes from Big Ted and Shortee Bltiz' show on Kiss FM. I would then edit them down, eliminating what I already had or what Lil' Kim had ruined. This was pretty much my life circa '98- '01.
If, however, you were (un)lucky enough to have grown up in New York throughout the Nineties, you would have been able to do the same thing, though to the selections of the much better 'Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Show'. If you were one of them there rappers with any ounce of skill, you would probably have made your way on to their college broadcast show every Thursday; a show from which the titular pair made little to negative money, but created a lifetime of memories.
Now, in 2015, with the twenty-fifth anniversary of their first broadcast together a week away, or something, Bobbito Garcia has trawled the archives of the video and tape recordings of the show to tell the story of the 'greatest radio show of all time' according to someone.
With a documentary such as this, you don't need too much of a story around it: all you need is some interviews with some people involved and the music will speak for itself. This was the approach for 'The Art of Rap' and is Garcia's approach here. Though there is some contextualising.
To start, we are introduced to the two men themselves: Adrian 'Stretch Armstrong' Bartos and Robert 'Bobbito' Garcia, with interviews with their parents, photos of their school days and some brief storytelling as to how they both found hip hop and in turn each other. Then, they decided to make a college radio show together.
What then follows is about an hour of the duo interviewing various hip hop heads that appeared on the show, all with an accompanying walkman to play the classic freestyles they once said about two decades ago. The likes of Jay-Z, Nas, Eminem, Raekwon, Redman, as well as people you've heard of, all take time to listen to the memories and wax lyrical about just how important the show was for MCs in launching their careers.
But, with a rap radio show only being as good as the rap music on offer, from 1996 onwards, with the decline in the quality of music felt by both, as well as criticism arising from their switch to Hot 97, the pair started a passive aggressive battle of wills, with the more beat-minded Stretch playing increasing ignorant raps to intentionally annoy the more lyrically-focused Bobbito. The show, therefore ended with the decline in hip hop, before a twentieth anniversary reunion show was made in 2010. So, with the twenty-fifth anniversary, they made a documentary.
Everything about this documentary is fun. This is two people doing what they do for the fun of it, loving every minute and barely earning a dollar for the privilege. This is reflected in the film, with both in good spirits throughout the interviews, showing the good rapport they had on the show, and with the hip hop elite.
The music speaks for itself, with endless clips of live freestyles from some of the best wordsmiths available, leaving the audience to HOLLLLLLLLERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!
This is probably one more for true heads, who will love it, but can provide an education for those less in the know. It brings back memories and will show you some things you may have missed. This is hip hop for the sheer joy of it and a reminder as to why we followed that path.