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Music Video Distributors presents
Rock Da Houze (2002)

"The sad fact is not too many people study the industry before they go into the studio."
- Director Sheldon P. Lane

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: July 31, 2002

Stars: William Johnson, Eddie Smith
Other Stars: M Doc, Horace Brown
Director: Sheldon P. Lane

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language, some violence)
Run Time: 01h:12m:35s
Release Date: July 30, 2002
UPC: 022891133698
Genre: music

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ C-C-C- C+

DVD Review

If there's one constant in the world of commercial music, it's that artists will get unwittingly screwed when a wave of popularity embraces their chosen genre. Since the mid-1980s, the increasing popularity of rap and hip-hop music has ensured that though it has outlasted the critics, it is still vulnerable to the internal problems of the music business. Although I'm not a fan of the genre myself, it's easy to see how any young, relatively inexperienced rapper might think his career is set when a major record label expresses interest in signing him. Before he knows it, though, small contract problems arise and he discovers not making half the money he's entitled to. The low budget, independent film, Rock Da Houze is a sort of cautionary tale designed to forewarn those wanting to head into the world of hip-hop music and DJ mixing to check out their labels before trying to grasp their 15 minutes of fame.

In a sense, one might think of Rock Da Houze as an educational movie designed to teach a basic set of messages about breaking into the music industry. The core story deals with two friends, Stone and Malik, who are about to be signed to a record label when their demo tape impresses a rather shallow executive. Wanting to make it big, they sign on, but soon learn that there are all sorts of things they never checked out. Their careers are taking off, but also stalling because of poor business decisions and an abundance of corrupt label execs. They feel extreme pressure to modify their style of mixing in order to produce regular hits. Eventually, they feel like they have no control over the artistic content of their own work and that they're being forced to conform to a set image. This story is interrupted at regular points with short interview segments with real-life DJs and artists about their experiences and opinions about making careers in music.

In general, the moral behind Rock Da Houze is to simply be careful when trying to get label support for your work. While the scope of the film is limited to the rap field, it still holds a universal message. This message, however, is a bit on the exaggerated side when Malik and Stone eventually run into criminal activity and, while I'm sure this is a distinct possibility in the record industry, I'm not sure it's as common as the film makes it seem. In any case, the cautionary attempts of the film are honorable, but ultimately flawed. The main problem seems to primarily be a lack of decent actors and the extremely low budget, which seems to have been mostly spent on licensing "big-name" rap songs for the soundtrack rather than investing in good equipment. Because of this, the movie is a technical dud that requires the viewer to jump a certain number of hurdles to watch. From the barely audible dialogue (drowned out by a constant rap soundtrack that overstays its welcome) to the shoddy, handheld camera technique, to the artificial "film grain" fuzz-filters applied to the video, it just feels too desperate to be something it's not.

As a project of pure entertainment, Rock Da Houze falls in the category of just about all made-for-video films about hip-hop or the industry and so on, which is not a good thing. What saves it is that it's trying to perform a service to young DJs by trying to warn them not to make silly decisions when trying to make it big. For that sole reason, director Sheldon Lane earns points and is partially successful. Otherwise, Rock Da House is very much like a classic exploitation film about the "evil" people in show-business, but takes itself too seriously to be funny or charming in an intentional way.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: I personally didn't care for the over-production of the image, which included the use of an introduced filter of some kind that adds a fake grain to the movie. It looks pretty bad and brings out a lot of compression artifacts. The transfer itself seems to handle the film as best as possible, but another issue is the severe aliasing in the film, seemingly caused by the kind of video used. The disc itself seems technically sound, I just think the introduced factors of the production really bring down the overall impression.

Image Transfer Grade: C-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: My big complaint with Rock Da Houze is the dialogue. It seems in virtually every hip-hop/rap movie I've seen, there's this obsession with blasting the soundtrack over the dialogue in just about scene possible. The dialogue was recorded, it would seem, in-camera, or at least with very weak on-set equipment, so it's very hard to hear in many circumstances, especially with the soundtrack getting in the way. Granted, the music sounds good, but it totally shadows everything else.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Complete Film Soundtrack plus bonus song
  2. Additional Music video
  3. Photo Gallery
Extras Review: The extras contain all 6 of the major songs featured in the film plus an additional tune. According to liner notes, the CD version of the soundtrack contains 7 additional tracks. There is a music video for artist NY'A and some still photos from the movie. While the inclusion of the music is great for fans, the features pretty much have nothing to do with the movie or it's theme.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Big-time fans of making homemade hip-hop/DJ mixes and enjoying that whole subculture might get a kick out of this fictional interpretation of the world of corporate music labels, but otherwise, it's a bland, lifeless exercise in the lessons about the bad side of music.


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