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Music Video Distributors presents
Redefinitions: Hip Hop Roots & Future (2002)

"In order to be an MC, there's not doubt about it—you must be able to write. That's part of the art of being an MC."
- Grandmaster Caz

Review By: Dan Heaton   
Published: December 09, 2002

Stars: Afrika Bambaataa, DJ Red Alert, Blackalicious, Dead Prez
Other Stars: Heather B, Cassius D, Umar Bin Hassan, Grandmaster Caz
Director: Unknown

Manufacturer: PDM
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (minor language, but is suitable for most audiences)
Run Time: 0h:37m:23s
Release Date: December 10, 2002
UPC: 022891134398
Genre: hip-hop

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ A-B-C B+

DVD Review

As an avid music lover, I am constantly searching for genuine depth within an industry dominated by shallow, cookie-cutter stars. The monstrous record labels wield tremendous control over the industry and enforce their will through nearly identical radio stations across the country. I find this influence especially troubling in the hip-hop genre, where gimmicks occupy the spotlight and overwhelm talented figures who actually have something to say. Truly exciting artists like The Roots, Mos Def, The Goodie Mob, Common, and others do generate compelling records, but they do not receive enough notice from radio stations and MTV. Listeners unwilling to search for greater depth miss out on creative works from diverse talents across the genre.

Redefinitions: Hip Hop Roots & Future spotlights a group of compelling and thoughtful people who strongly believe in the culture. Instead of simply showcasing their music, this documentary allows them to speak freely about the community. Afrika Bambaadaa appears first and discusses hip-hop's existence throughout history long before the recent popularity. In his words, Muhammed Ali, Malcolm X, Bo Diddly, and religious figures have all utilized this form with varying methods. We also hear from Sway, an MTV VJ, who wants to change the network's inadequacies by working on the inside. I find this concept intriguing and laudatory, but wonder about his power when dealing with the big shots of music television.

One of this film's best elements is the spotlight on spoken-word artists, who often convey a pure method of the art form. At a festival in Washington, D.C., Jahi performs a brief spoken-word sequence that impressively presents this great side of hip-hop. Another excellent monologue comes from Cassius D, who comments about the remarkable exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. He passionately uses a quiet, rugged voice to proclaim the need for a black-owned hip-hop museum. The Last Poets are a primary example of a group that uses spoken word effectively, with Umar Bin Hassen utilizing unique wordplay during a compelling speech.

Instead of wasting time on flashy graphics or unnecessary narration, Redefinitions: Hip Hop Roots & Future simply gives its speakers an opportunity to educate the audience. We catch quick glimpses of several performances, including an exciting intro from Blackalicious, but the focus remains on the message. With a simple, low-budget style, the creators succeed in providing numerous interesting concepts. The final credits roll over the shot of a man playing a Bob Marley song on a lone guitar. The cameraman begins to sing along, and the effect is genuinely summarizes the documentary's worthwhile direction.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: This documentary utilizes a low-budget, home-video style of filming that leads to an unimpressive visual transfer. The colors are bleak and often unclear due to incorrect lighting within indoor structures. However, this lesser appearance corresponds with the lack of flair conveyed by the movie. We don't really need a great picture to understand the ideas being conveyed.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: While the image transfer does not lessen this feature's effectiveness, I was disappointed in the audio quality. This mono track is too quiet and sometimes makes the comments difficult to understand. While I would not expect to find much higher volume on this type of documentary, the lack of clarity is troubling. It only becomes a major problem on a few occasions, but it still is a notable negative.

Audio Transfer Grade: C


Disc Extras

Static menu
Packaging: unmarked keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Live performances
  2. Hip-hop tutorial
  3. Jahi music recording
Extras Review: Redefinitions: Hip Hop Roots & Future requires performances to complement its message, and this release does not disappoint. It contains a 50-minute concert from Jahi, who effectively mixes rapping over beats with spoken word material. Much of the music is supported by The Life, a full band, but he also does some tracks with only beats. Jahi has some fun interplay with the subdued outdoor audience, and they seem to enjoy the show. A breakdancer also enlivens the activities, which are filmed with a basic video camera.

Another worthwhile feature is a Hip-Hop Tutorial, which shows Jahi presenting the basic elements of the culture. Speaking to possibly a school audience, he describes the diverse aspects, which include the MC, beat-boxing, street knowledge, and the business side. While it only runs for five minutes, this piece gives a good overview and offers several nice insights. The most notable one is Jahi's thoughts about the community of faith and its possibilities of aiding the hip-hop culture.

The final extra provides audio tracks from Jahi's album Window of Opportunity, which convey his positive, real-world message. They run for about 30 minutes and showcase energetic beats playing behind insightful lyrics.

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

Music listeners who desire more than the typical junk from Eminem, Puff Daddy, and Dr. Dre should definitely check out Redefinitions: Hip Hop Roots & Future. Unfortunately, the message presented here needs to find more than the viewers who already agree with its tenets. The future may not appear strong for the mainstream industry, but the independent hip-hop culture should continue to thrive due to the efforts of original artists searching for more than simple financial success.


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