The rap industry is always transforming and the lo-fi rap world has exploded, which is where this documentary American Rapstar picks up. It's a tragic, yet very informative look at life on and off the stage for some of the world's biggest lo-fi artists. The 1080p HD picture looks great and the DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix sounds amazing. The audio commentary from the director is a home run. Highly Recommended!
Does Bhad Bahabie, Lil Pump, Smokerpurpp, Lil Peep, or Lil Xan sound familiar? Those are the dominant names in the lo-fi rap arena and the subjects of the fascinating documentary American Rapstar. Rap music certainly has sub-genres that have transformed throughout the decades. For those that lived during the Reagan and Bush Senior years, rap was mostly celebrated through actual record albums from Digital Underground or Run DMC. In the '90s, the rap genre really took off with Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z, Eazy-E, Notorious BIG, and more. Those younger creative rap artists who had no chance in hell getting a big record contract out of California or New York had to find some other way to break into the business.
Enter the mid-2000s when lo-fi hip-hop and rap became the new sensation. What is lo-fi rap? Lo-fi is a genre of music that is produced with low-fidelity signals such as low drum beats, hiss, and garbles in making music. All of these unorthodox noises have been made to create beats and music in the rap world. In 2007, an online program called SoundCloud provided a DIY music release program that allowed any musician to release and promote their music to the masses without the use of a corporate studio. The lo-fi rap artists took notice and started to release their music through SoundCloud and a worldwide explosion of musicians was born.
Director Justin Staple explores this monumental phenomenon in his documentary American Rapstar by showcasing some of the biggest sensations in the genre as they discuss their careers along with some of their own concert footage. But American Rapstar is not a piece of sugary candy wrapped up in a bow. While some of the doc explains the genius of li-fi rap and the talent behind the music, this film highlights the dark side of the industry and its artists. There's been an epidemic of young rap artists who are being killed off, still to this day by either being murdered or overdosing on opioids - which is what Staple and his documentary really focus on. it's a sad state of affairs to watch these artists talk about their trauma and how the fans and world see them through this lens, warts and face tattoos and all.
Some of these kids started releasing music in their early teens only to garner tens of millions of social media followers over the course of a few months. With that came fame, money, and power, but also betrayals and tons of drugs that were marketed to them and their fans through big pharmacy companies. A lot of these artists get time to shine but it's with Bhad Bhabie who shares the most poignant takes on the industry and the life of these musicians that hits all too close to home. Whether or not anyone knows what lo-fi rap is or who these artists are, this documentary called American Rapstar is one hell of an informative and entertaining piece that will have anyone that views it look at their own role in the music world.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
American Rapstar scratches its way to Blu-ray via Utopia and OCN Distribution. The sole disc is housed inside a hard, clear plastic case. The artwork features a black and white artist in front of a live crowd on stage. The reverse artwork is just a text graphic of the title. There is an insert of a postcard with new artwork for the film.
American Rapstar comes with a 1080p HD transfer and looks great. The interviews provide all of the primary and realistic colors of an interior room or a big venue full of lights and people. Black levels are inky and the skin tones are natural. There are different aspect ratios throughout with the different cameras used to shoot concert footage, archival film, and new interviews. The detail always shows its subjects with sharp and vivid detail that accentuates facial pores, individual hairs, tattoo lines, sweat, and more. This is a wonderful-looking documentary with no big issues to speak of.
This release comes with a DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix that pumps up that volume well. The music hits hard with a fantastic low end of bass that always has a smooth rumble to it. That's the real highlight here. There are no real sound effects going on, but the dialogue is clean, clear, and easy to follow. The crowd noises at concerts provide ample noise in the surround speakers too.
There is only an audio commentary track here, which is amazing. There should have been some extended interview footage included here.
American Rapstar is an excellent documentary that examines the lo-fi rap culture and its artists through SoundCloud and all of the trauma and death that surround the industry. It's a dark turn full of music and information from a relatively young movement. The 1080p HD video looks great and the DTS-HD 5.1 audio track sounds fantastic. The audio commentary is also worth listening to. Highly Recommended!