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The Hip Hop Project in our magazines

THE MOVIE: The Hip Hop Project

Chris ‘Kazi’ Rolle • Diana ‘Princess’ Lemon • Christopher ‘Cannon’ Mapp
DIRECTOR: Matt Ruskin

Chris ‘Kazi’ Rolle THE CONCEPT:
Produced by Bruce Willis and Queen Latifah, this compelling documentary spotlights hip hop singer, and formerly homeless teenager, Chris ‘Kazi’ Rolle, who inspires a group of teens in New York City to transform their life stories into powerful works of art, using rap music as a means for self-development and personal discovery.

U.S. RELEASE: May 11 2007, Nationwide
• Rated: PG-13


“It’s an incredible time for the film to come out in the context of this national debate being sparked about the [negative] content of rap music, and its affect on the culture. But Kazi has been doing this work for close to 10 years. He wanted to help inner city teenagers get off the streets by appealing to their interest in music. But the catch was that they had to write music about their own life stories. The program uses the allure and power of hip hop to draw young people into a family that challenges them to go deep inside and bring their life stories, dreams, and voices to the world.”

“I have so much I can say to teens, but I would say that for me, my biggest lesson has been that when you go through the hardest stuff in life that means that you have a greater purpose. If you ask, ‘Why is this happening to me?’ and you seek out that answer, over time when the answer is revealed you see that it really made you a better and stronger person. And seek support – that’s a big thing. I had a lot of angels in my life who have done a lot for me.”

“The group [of rappers] wanted to make this film, so they were remarkably open with their lives. It did take several months for them to get used to the cameras and develop a real sense of trust with the crew. After those initial months, however, they became less and less conscious of the camera.”

Bruce Willis [who gave the project a studio in which to record their CD] is a really smooth guy, and very cool. We were all very grateful for the studio. Hip hop and a lot of stuff that goes on within the inner city is usually always highlighted when it’s negative, and it’s not always highlighted when it’s positive.”

“I grew up on rap music, and I had actually lost interest in it almost entirely. When you find a new, fresh and creative art form that belongs to the subculture and the counterculture, and you watch it become almost entirely commercialized, you choose not to watch anymore after a certain point. I came in with no expectations to like the music, I just wanted to make the film. I felt that Kazi’s story was an important story, and worth telling, and I was very surprised that it reinvigorated my interest in the music.”

Written by Judy Sloane. Back to top

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Feature © 2007 Visual Imagination.
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Film Review, #684, Summer 2007 cover

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