Reviewed by Colin Jacobson
|Title:||And Ya Don't Stop: Hip Hop Greatest Videos (2000)|
1. Public Enemy, Fight The Power. 2. Arrested Development, Tennessee. 3. Wu Tang Clan, C.R.E.A.M. 4. N.W.A., Straight Outta Compton. 5. Queen Latifah, U.N.I.T.Y. 6. 2 Pac (Tupac Shakur), Brenda's Gotta Baby. 7. Ice Cube, It Was A Good Day. 8. Onyx, Slam. 9. House Of Pain, Jump Around. 10. Eazy E, Real Compton City Gs. 11. Whodini, Freaks Come Out At Night. 12. Eric B. & Rakim, Microphone Fiends.
|DVD:||Standard 1.33:1; audio English PCM Stereo; subtitles none; single sided - single layered; 12 chapters; rated NR; $19.95; 4/25/00.|
While techno was touted as the "next big thing" a few years ago but never made it there, hip hop was the hit that shouldn't have happened. Ever since rap records started to appear in the late Seventies and early Eighties, the form has been dismissed and called a fad. Despite many predictions of its imminent death, hip hop is now bigger than ever, for better or for worse.
To be honest, I think "for worse" best fits the current situation. I used to like a lot of rap - hell, my friend Todd and I nearly got beaten up as two of maybe 100 white people in a crowd of 15,000 at a 1986 Run-DMC show - but I think the format's appeal has gotten completely lost amongst the posturing and bluster. Call me an old curmudgeon, but hip hop has become incredibly dull and predictable; shouting and obnoxiousness substitute for any actual talent.
Those factors aren't much of a problem in the compilation called And Ya Don't Stop: Hip Hop's Greatest Videos, a strong mix of classic clips. On this DVD we find 12 videos:
Virtually all of these videos can be classified as "classics" to some degree; each is well-known and has some solid reason for appearing here. The weakest aspect of the compilation is its heavy focus on a brief period. Eight of the songs come from 1992-93, while three of the others are from 1988-89; that's pretty limited for a form that's been popular for 20 years.
Only "Freaks Come Out At Night" offers any representation of rap's early years, and that's the DVD's weakest point. For any hip hop "greatest videos" compilation to earn its title, it needs material from "old school" giants like Run-DMC, LL Cool J and/or UTFO. "Freaks Come Out At Night" indeed was a huge hit, but its presence actually does more to accentuate the DVD's lack of balance than to alleviate it.
The DVD could have used less "gangsta" emphasis as well. Three of the 12 tracks are from NWA or former members, and that seems a bit much, especially since only "Straight Outta Compton" is a good song (a terrific one, as a matter of fact). "It Was a Good Day" is decent but earns its place here based mainly on the video, while "Real Compton City Gs" definitely appears here because of the Dr. Dre-baiting clip; the song itself stinks.
Add to those three songs the tunes from Wu Tang, Onyx, and 2 Pac and the DVD's badass emphasis becomes even more clear. PE's terrific "Fight the Power" offers a compromise between tough-guy attitude and more thoughtful lyrics, though the video itself is fairly poor (and is hurt by the iconic cameo from famed liar Tawana Brawley). The clips from Eric B. and Rakim and Arrested Development provide a mild respite from the gangstas, but I miss good esoteric stuff like De La Soul.
Other than "Freaks Come Out At Night", we don't find any evidence of the pop side of hip hop. No Tone Loc, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, MC Hammer, or Young MC; some may regard that as a positive, but the extra balance such clips could have provided would have been nice.
Also almost completely absent are the women. We get one video from Queen Latifah, but that's it. Admittedly, rap's always been a boy's game, especially back in the days depicted here; if the DVD branched out to the latter half of the Nineties, more females could appear, but the options were much more limited back in this period. Still, some Salt N Pepa would have been positive.
Happily almost-nonexistent are the white rappers, most of whom have been deservedly ridiculed. House of Pain don't do much to make me accept pale hip-hoppers - "Jump Around" sounds weak - and I'm not disappointed by the omission of Vanilla Ice, but some Beastie Boys would have added spice to the collection.
This is a wish list, however, and I'm sure the compilers were constricted by rights questions; I wouldn't be surprised to discover they would have liked to add many of the aforementioned acts but couldn't do so for reasons beyond their control. If that's the case, the collection works very well, because it does offer a strong set of songs and videos. Although I may not like most - or even many - of the tunes, one can easily make a case for the inclusion of each one, and I won't argue against any of them.
(For the record, the only songs here that I really like are "Fight the Power", "Straight Outta Compton", and "Slam"; the rest vary between decent to poor, in my opinion. As far as the videos go, "Brenda's Gotta Baby", "It Was A Good Day" and "Slam" are the most compelling of the bunch.)
The videos of And Ya Don't Stop appear in varying aspect ratios, but the vast majority stick to the standard 1.33:1. The quality of these clips generally seems pretty good, but is inconsistent; plenty of flaws appear during AYDS, though I still thought it was a very watchable production.
For the most part, two culprits cause the problems in quality: age and cost. The newest video on AYDS was made in the mid-Nineties, and some of the clips reach back into the Eighties. As such, the AYDS pieces have had a long time to sit on the shelf, and their aging affects them negatively.
It also seems that most of these videos were shot pretty cheaply. Unlike more modern videos from the likes of Puff Daddy, not a single one here appears to have been a big-budget affair, and many are pretty basic and lack much production sizzle. The low cost of the clips also influences the lower quality of appearance.
Nonetheless, I found that the videos largely looked fine. As with all music video collections, the quality varies pretty radically, but I thought the majority of the clips looked the way they were supposed to look. At times I had some difficulty discerning how much the director's intent affected the quality; for example, "Tennessee" seems to have been shot on 16mm film and seems pretty grainy and scratchy. Do those flaws appear because it was a cheap production or because the director desired that effect or some combination thereof? I'm guessing it's the latter, but I have no way of knowing for certain.
In a lot of ways, these videos are easier to judge than most music video compilations because their styles are much more straightforward. While we do witness a lot of different effects in use - such as the grittiness of "Brenda's Gotta Baby" - these clips largely lack the more extravagant oddness and quirkiness of many videos so we don't find as much intentional distortion or blurring.
Overall, sharpness of the videos appeared pretty good; some of them seemed vaguely soft at times, and I also noticed a "ringing" quality around some of the performers in "Tennessee", but the focus remained largely accurate. Colors appeared somewhat heavy much of the time; saturation may have been too strong, and the hues come across as a bit thick. Black levels seemed adequate but unspectacular. Ultimately, the videos looked pretty decent but lacked terrific clarity; although the producers of the DVD appear to have mastered the disc well, there's only so much that can be done with the material.
Sound quality is a more positive realm, and the music on AYDS generally seems clear and rich. AYDS doesn't offer a Dolby Digital 5.1 option; all we find here is PCM stereo. And that's fine; since the songs were originally mixed in stereo, I have no complaints with their continued presentation in that manner.
As one would expect, the breadth of the stereo imaging varies from song to song, but each seemed appropriately discrete and provided distinct mixes. The quality also varies but generally appeared clear and crisp. A little distortion was apparent at times, but not much. Bass seemed a bit weaker than I'd like; I don't know how much of that impression stemmed from the limitations of my subwoofer-less system, but I got the impression the recordings themselves bore much of the responsibility. Still, though the quality of sound wasn’t quite great, I thought the songs on AYDS accurately represented the source material and they consistently sounded quite good.
We find nearly no supplemental features on AYDS. We get trailers for Thicker Than Water, Jamaican crime flick Third World Cop and the documentary Mandela. A Chuck D public service announcement appears as well. Yawn!
Despite some reservations, And Ya Don't Stop makes for a solid primer on hip hop and is an interesting package. Most of the songs and videos are fairly solid, and both picture and sound quality are good. Fans of the genre should be very happy with this package.