This treacly doc follows the story of a youth mentorship program
spearheaded by Kazi, the urban teenage mentor you wish every troubled
teen could have: empathetic, patient, smart and world-weary. Over four
years, he helps a group of aspiring teenage rappers from turbulent
backgrounds get their lives and rhymebooks into shape. But are these
MCs worth any attention? Just because one has a “positive message”
doesn’t mean one can rap. Project
tries hard to convince us these are extraordinary rappers—rather than ordinary rappers with extraordinary lives.
are affecting moments, to be sure: MC Princess writes out rhymes about
her abortion in a cramped, squalid apartment; Cannon faces the group
the moment his mother dies. But director Ruskin overplays his cards.
Using a breathtakingly sleek style, Ruskin tries to will this story
into 8 Mile when it’s more Degrassi Junior High.
In keeping with most of the recent misguided hysteria over hip-hop (see Oprah, Russell Simmons), Project
that if you mention guns in your lyrics, you don’t have anything
worthwhile to say. If this is how you save hip-hop, we’re not sure
we’ll keep listening.