The Great Hip Hop Hoax (18)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner04/09/2013

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 88 mins

Engaging and enjoyable documentary enlivened by a likeable central duo and a wealth of superb archive footage, though there's actually very little substance to the story outside of the basic synopsis.

What's it all about?
Directed by Jeanie Finlay, The Great Hip-Hop Hoax focuses on the story of aspiring Scottish rappers Billy Boyd and Gavin Bain, two smalltown best friends who recorded some tracks and attempted to get them heard in London, only to have record executives laughingly dismiss them as ‘the rapping Proclaimers’ and for club owners to hang up immediately on hearing their accents. Partly out of frustration and partly for a laugh, the boys began using American accents when booking gigs on the phone and suddenly found themselves in great demand, whereupon they re-invented themselves as Californian hip-hop duo Silibil 'n' Brains, moved down to London and decided to basically live in character 24/7.

After rerecording their tracks in American accents, the boys started getting gigs that brought them to the attention of music producers and soon they were appearing on television and supporting the likes of D-12. However, their country-wide deception soon began to take its toll, both on their friendship and their mental and physical health.

The Good
Director Jeanie Finlay (who made the wonderful Sound It Out) allows Billy and Gavin (recorded separately, due to no longer being friends) to tell the story in their own words a decade on, interspersed with interviews with other talking heads (music producers, friends, etc), quirky animated inserts (with the boys represented as cartoon characters) and a wealth of archive video footage because they were somewhat ahead of their time in that respect and recording themselves all the time anyway.

The film touches on a variety of different themes: primarily it's the story of the extraordinary lengths that fame-obsessed people will go to in order to achieve their dreams, but it's also a savage indictment of the shallowness and prejudice of the music industry, though, sadly, the film skimps a little when it comes to revelling in the embarrassment of the people who were taken in. What makes the latter element particularly galling is that the boys are genuinely talented, which rather gives the lie to the much touted idea that talent will eventually out.

The Bad
The main problem with the film is that, dramatically, there's very little substance to the story beyond the basic synopsis; there are no twists and turns and, crucially, there's no big dramatic reveal or exposure of the hoax and the story just peters out once one of them decides he's had enough. That said, you are left with a genuine sadness about the loss of their friendship, not to mention a sense of what could have been with regards to their musical career.

Worth seeing?
The Great Hip Hop Hoax is a well made, entertaining documentary that tells an amusing and occasionally moving story, though if they ever make a narrative feature version you can bet that the ending will be changed.

Film Trailer

The Great Hip Hop Hoax (18)
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Content updated: 23/10/2017 00:00

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