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A documentary with appearances by Jay-Z, DMX, Method Man, Redman, Beanie Sigel, Memphis Bleek, Ja Rule, DJ Clue, Amil
Directed by Chris Fiore
No website

IN SHORT: Only for rap aficionados of the stars. [Rated R for strong language, nudity and drug content.]

We don't normally sit down to screen documentaries but those of you that have read the History of Cranky know that we do have a background in the music business. Rock radio, to be specific, though we were clued in to artists like Grandmaster Flash long before his first twelve inchers achieved commercial distribution, this circa 1982 or '83. We liked what we heard and we also had a feeling deep down in our guts that rock 'n' roll was about to meet its match. Then hip-hop became rap became gangsta rap became an excuse to rip off (or "sample") other musician's work without paying for it, in true gangster form. Not to mention taking a turn towards lyrics that were sexist, racist, violent, homophobic, you name it. Rap was altogether repulsive and, as we knew in our gut that it would happen, rock 'n' roll rolled over and died.

Well, thanks to a pale faced no talent calling himself Vanilla Ice, the sampled musicians started getting paid. We still didn't like almost anything else about rap but friends far more liberal than us insisted that we'd never given rap music a fair shake. So, with complete ignorance of who the hell Jay-Z, Method Man, Redman, Beanie Sigel, Memphis Bleek, JA Rule, DJ Clue or Amil were (we knew DMX from his film work) we sat down for the filmed behind the scenes look at 1999's Hard Knock Life tour, called Backstage, knowing that all these films contain a good hunk of concert material.

Silly me. Backstage is exactly what it says it is, a behind the scenes look at the booze, the dope, the boasting, the politics -- the tour, a joint action of Island Def Jam and Roc-A-Fella Records -- and backstabbing features samples of the live performances rather than full fledged songs. As such, it is the equivalent of a "making of" promo video that gets slapped onto a DVD as additional material. Having worked on those things I can report that they're mere puff pieces to get the faces of the producers (etc.) out in front of the public. Here, the execs at Roc-A-Fella get to bitch about the execs at Def Jam giving away free Def Jam jackets to the Roc-A-Fella artists, the first step towards an out and out steal of the act, dontcha know. Other than that, we learn that hip hop artists are not that different from rock 'n' roll artists, with voices that get just as slurry and incomprehensible when stoned and who enjoy groupies that flash or sneak off to service the stars in the bathroom, or both.

Short of knowing these artists before you walk in the door, in which case you may feel as if you've gotten to know them even better, there's nothing here of any appeal to us ignoramuses who don't care for the music and even less to convince us that we're wrong about our feelings.

To talk the talk, I'm too old for this [expletive deleted].

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Backstage, he would have paid...


A mother[expletive deleted] waste of our time.

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