Baltimore Real Talk Vol. 4
THE MOVIE "Reality" has become one of the most unlikely commodities in the 21st century, and the transparent difference between what is seen onscreen and how people actually see "it"--whatever that it may be--is one of the motives driving the underground rap DVD market, which takes a decidedly local and man-on-the street approach to documenting what goes down in the real grind of urban life. These documents are, refreshingly, more often made by young African-American men and featuring young African-American men. Rap has its own visual language and tropes, but in a city such as Baltimore--where its urban black life has been portrayed on television shows and been the subject of wells of journalistic ink--that divide between how it's depicted and how it proverbially is feels particularly tenuous. What better way to reclaim fictionalized stories being mistaken for reality than show it yourself? "Real" is the currency that affects people's lives. Recall Spike Lee's Clockers: "We ain't boys," Strike admonishes a younger kid when Strike gets caught between his boss and homicide cops. "This is real n***a shit."
Maybe so, but it also makes for some merely tepid viewing. Baltimore Real Talk is one of the more popular--in terms of being able to find around town--and prolific series of local rap DVDs, which typically catches up with a local MC, lets him spit at the camera for a minute, and includes a casual interview and perhaps a music video. Cut between such mini-segments are conversations with people in the "scene" at nightclubs, on the street, at home, wherever. And the recently released Vol. 4--which is "going national," so says the DVD--makes a few stops with some talented local MCs, such as Los, D.O.E., and Nikstylz, the lone woman featured.
The problem with these things is that they all bleed together: One MC in a room freestyling over a beat followed another and then another starts to blunt whatever effect an MC might have, making the DVD feel like an open-mic night. The momentum stalls even more when people start talking smack to one another through the camera or show up onscreen just for a quick plug of the DVD on the DVD (disclosure: City Paper contributor Al Shipley is one such talking head). What makes Baltimore Real Talk essential is when the personalities have stories and ideas to share--such as 100 Grand Man, Ty Gutta, and Skarr Akbar. Their lives and words bring extemporaneous interviews to life.
THE DISK The biggest problem with Baltimore Real Talk is that it's one document not divided up into easily navigated sections. And at around two hours, it becomes tedious to sit through all at once.