The Great Hip Hop Hoax Movie Review
Both engaging and eye-opening, this spirited documentary recounts an outrageous story with humour and honesty, revealing some nasty truths about the music industry in the process. The big issues are prejudice and greed, of course, but the film thankfully keeps its focus on a friendship that is pushed to the breaking point.
Billy Boyd and Gavin Bain first met in their hometown of Dundee in 2000, discovering that they had a mutual love of rap music as well as the talent to write and perform extremely catchy tunes. But record labels and performance venues just laughed in their faces: dismissing the mere idea of Scottish rappers. Then in a moment of frustration, they tell a London club that they're from Southern California, and suddenly everyone wants to hear more of their music. So they re-record their demo with American accents and create elaborate alter egos so they can convince everyone that Silibil n' Brains are partying L.A. skater dudes. Soon they have a big-time manager (Shalit) and a lucrative deal with Sony Records.
Filmmaker Finlay makes terrific use of Boyd and Bain's own video footage, capturing their crazy stunts and buoyant energy. We also see their skills as musicians in clips from their riotous performances. And we know that they have a bigger plan: to become superstars before they expose the hypocrisy in the music business. So it's fascinating to watch everything spiral out of their control. While living the high life and appearing all over the media, their debut album stubbornly refuses to come together, delayed even further when Sony goes through a restructuring. And it isn't easy living 24 hours a day as a fictional character.
And here's where the film gets under our skin, because all of this strains the friendship between these guys. Amazingly, no one around them learned the truth that they were actually Scots who had never even visited America before. Their big personalities won over everyone they met, and they charm us too. But even if their personas were invented, their music and on-stage charisma are genuine, providing shocking proof of how the system crushes genuinely gifted artists all the time. Perhaps this movie will give Silibil n' Brains a second chance. It certainly makes us want to hear their album.