This documentary is an in-depth look at rapping. It goes through the history of rap and all the different subgenres like party rap, gangsta rap, political rap, etc. He interviews many different rappers, looking at their various writing processes, the way in which they perform and how they memorize their lyrics. There's also a look at how they flow. The distinctions of rapping versus MCing are explored, with rapping being done in a studio and MCing being done on stage, rocking a crowd. Perhaps, the most common theme going through all the interviews is the competitive nature of hip-hop. These are all artists trying to outdo each other, both in their craft and on the charts.
The best thing I can say about this movie is to mention the high quality of the interviews. Only someone with the stature of Ice-T could have put together an interviewee group of this caliber. He has rappers of all different styles and eras. This movie has Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Yasiin Bey, Dougie Fresh, Big Daddy Kane, Nas, Kanye West and a number of lesser names. It's not just about who shows up, though. Ice-T has such a special rapport with all these people. He pulls out a comfort level and a level of insight, enthusiasm, great stories and impressive freestyles that a generic interviewer from a television show could never do. The movie puts you in their world. You could spend hours combing through YouTube looking for interviews of this caliber with rap stars of this caliber. I especially like the interviews with Salt from Salt-N-Pepa and Chuck D. Salt comes off as the kind of classy lady that you would want to go over her house for dinner and meet her family. Chuck D is also a real cool guy and seeing his writing process was neat for me. With such a huge group of people, though, some of the interviews feel rushed. Whenever the cast is this large, also, the first thing you think about is who isn't in it and I have to say I wish the Beastie Boys had made an appearance. This is, of course, nitpicking.
Ultimately, Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap is a great movie for what it is and what it's trying to be, but the viewer will likely leave with roughly the same interest level they brought in. It's almost too insular to even care what outsiders think which to me makes it more genuine on the whole and superior, but occasionally pretentious with its goals.