Dead Prez Rock Philly Film Fest

Boasting an impressive roster of hip-hop journalists, independent filmmakers and a regional hip-hop pioneer, the Art Sanctuary in Philadelphia hosted a panel discussion recently on hip hop and film, which featured a concert afterward by dead prez.

Sheena Lester, founder/editor-in-chief of Rap Pages, moderated the panel comprising of Source staffer Akiba Soloman; Selwyn Sefu Hinds, former Editor-in-Chief of The Source; Bonz Malone, writer and co-star of Brooklyn Babylon; independent filmmaker David Velo Stuart; and MC Breeze (of old school Philly fame, not the one that collaborated with 2pac.)

The event started by screening portions of films such as Philly Boy and State Property before Lester asked the panelists to discuss what constitutes a hip-hop film.

Solomon pointed out the importance of context in film, noting that although Love & Basketball was not considered a hip-hop film, the backdrop of the movie was hip-hop. Exhibiting the power of hip hop, Hinds recalled his childhood days in Guyana where he first viewed Beat Street and the cultural mixer it created for him. His recently released a book, “Gunshots in My Cook Up,” detailing his account of his travels from his native country to Brooklyn, that focuses on hip-hop and film.

The panelists all made sure to distinguish the differences between hip-hop inspired movies versus movies with just rappers in them as asked their opinions of rappers acting in lieu of Samuel L. Jackson’s comments.

“To me it’s not a problem for rappers to act if they can,” Soloman said. “Movies are product and having rappers star in them brings in capital.”

In response to whether rappers respect acting if they refuse to be billed under their real names rather then their emcee names, Hinds reasoned their rap monikers establish their roles to an extent. “To some degree, the persona they put on establishes the characters they can be.”

Malone, who had a role in Shaft with Jackson, defended the actor explaining the intensity he brings to his set and his demand that all involved do the same, whether rapper or not.

“He takes his shit seriously, he wanted to remove a top actor he felt wasn’t cutting it and bring in a B actor cause he said he’ll get more out of them from the performance.”

Bringing the discussion to a close, Lester remarked the quality of acting overall could use an improvement. “There’s a lot of bad actors in Hollywood, and they ain’t all rappers.”