The Great Hip Hop Hoax

Introducing The Great Hip Hop Hoax at Sheffield Doc/Fest this year, Jeanie Finlay stressed in no uncertain terms that her latest film was not a music doc. Even without the introduction, after hearing the first few lines of what can only be described as terrible, terrible rap music, this becomes somewhat obvious. But what follows is a hilarious, moving and somewhat unbelievable tale of two Scottish lads who manage to pull the wool over the eyes of one of the biggest record labels in the UK.
It is impossible to discuss hip hop without taking about cultural identity. Most artists come from poorer backgrounds, where they have been inspired to talk about the hardships they suffered due to having no money, being involved in crime and drug abuse and feeling like outsiders in a country where entire communities are neglected, and the rap scene, particularly in America, London and France has continued to grow, with rap artists being seen as the representatives for these communities. But it’s not just London, America and France that have these issues, and Finlay’s film, whilst not really attempting to address this issue head-on, certainly shine’s a light on the attitude of the UK music industry, and begs the question- why does the UK music industry shun British artists in favour of American artists? If hip-hop music is meant to be documenting a struggle, is the struggle of two Scottish boys less relevant in the UK?
Finlay’s film certainly lays the ground work for a much bigger discussion, however the core of the story is more concerned with the psychology of two people who can, for at least five years, lie to absolutely everyone they meet, and the effect that these web of deceit has on the mind of two people who seem to totally lose control of what they have created. What effect does lying about your nationality and your culture have on a person?
The film certainly raises far, far more questions than it answers, which arguably is the key to great documentary filmmaking. On top of that, the film is side-achingly hilarious, and there’s a real humanity to the story that would have potentially been missing had the more serious issues been raised. Finlay perfectly captures the excitement and the anticipation of two men who can’t quite believe their luck, to the inevitable anti-climax as it slowly comes apart. A brilliant documentary.

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