Many films suggest that truth is indeed stranger than fiction, films like Brad Layton’s The Imposter, John Maringouin’s Big River Man and Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s Catfish, all serve as evidence. This documentary is another film to add to that pile, if lower down the pecking order than others. The Great Hip Hop Hoax is a film that feels like it could potentially be much more but, having said that, is an entertaining documentary in its own right. Jeanie Finlay has directed a film that, unsurprisingly being backed by BBC Scotland, feels more like a TV documentary than a screen outing. Though that is not always a detriment.
The Great Hip Hop Hoax by name alone suggests something explosive and that is certainly done justice to. Gavin Bain and Billy Boyd’s transition to audacious hip hop duo Silibil n’ Brains was done with the best intentions and that is a good factor of this film. In presenting us this outrageous story the film does makes some worthwhile comments about the modern music industry. Particularly telling is how Bain and Boyd were mocked as “the rapping proclaimers” but when re-invented as the Americans with the same music, were offered an immediate contract. This film certainly suggests the fickle nature of the music business and that is certified by some informed talking heads that affirm that notion (“The Rolling Stones members are worthless on their own but magic when together”).
The journey these two aspiring rappers took is certainly well presented here, with undoubtedly as much information as possible. The unfortunate thing is that the animated inter-cuts presenting certain situations get a tad tiresome and Boyd and Bain’s characters feel unlikable at points. There is also the major problem that this story essentially thunders along only to fizzle out a bit. The climax feels rather unexplosive and Finlay’s direction in getting there feels a bit over-the-top. It is a big problem that Silibil n’ Brains annoy but it is perhaps a bigger problem that this film feels less impacting than you would have thought.
At times this documentary feels more akin to Jackass skits than a grand unveiling of the music industry. Then again, it seems that the same could be said of Boyd and Bain’s story. Initially setting out to lift the lid on modern music ideals, they became too absorbed with riches, booze and fame. Unintentionally then, perhaps Finlay’s film has expressed the problems with the music industry. It’s a shame more couldn’t have been made of that, still this remains an entertaining enough documentary.