There’s a new Hip-Hop classic on Netflix and “The 40-year Old Version” is an already critically acclaimed film directed and starring Radha Blank.
The movie, which also stars popular rapper Oswin Benjamin, chronicles the exploits of an aging playwright that decides to pursue a rap career and all the foibles that accompany the journey. Radha, also the name of the lead character in the movie, struggles with the fickle, odd, and seemingly racist world of theater. Fighting for a breakthrough, she decides to rebrand herself as rapper RadhaMUSPrime, and bounces between contrasting worlds.
“The 40-year Old Version” is more than a traditional rap movie as it explores the 40-and-up crew, where this growing community fits in the culture, the changing demographics of New York City, and even romantic love amid the changing Hip-Hop landscape.
Radha revealed the movie honors the OG’s of the culture, stating explicitly that they have a stake in the game in 2020.
“I think the messaging – very much like Common’s ‘I Used to Love H.E.R.’ – Hip-Hop has gone through many changes, but, at the end of the day, it still belongs to us. It’s ours,” she told AllHipHop, “And when I say ours, I mean people that are not necessarily in the prime of their youth.”
The movie takes place in the current era, but has a distinct retro-feel that did not escape critical audiences that gave it a whopping 98% on Rotten Tomatoes.
“I know that the culture of typically associated with the young people, but I feel like we’ve gotten to the point now where so many people got their hands on it. I am hoping that the film represents us taking it back in a way. One of the biggest compliments on the film is that it takes place in the 90’s,” Radha explained. “And I feel like at that time – not to be an old person reminiscing on the good old days – it was when the art form was at its best. So many voices were represented. From the Native Tongues to…whatever….we had so many different styles and emcees. I’m hoping that we get back to that, but the film is my way of celebrating that diversity of New York Hip-Hop.”
Oswin Benjamin, a rapper well-regarded in the tightly knit NYC rap scene, plays an introverted producer, Dee. He found himself in a unique place taking a backseat to the many rappers in the movie.
“If you’re an emcee, you got that thing. You see other people rapping around you, you kinda want to speak your peace. That’s very much something I am familiar with, but to be able to turn all that down, and just observe as a producer), it was like ‘Ohhhh I got a 16!’,” he said laughingly. “It was like aiiight cool. This is not the time for that. This is the role you are playing. I think it was cool to differentiate that for myself. It was a life lesson: you don’t gotta be ‘that guy’ anyway.”
Radha and Dee take a liking to each other in a clash of generations and the result is a special blend of authenticity, humor, and Hip-Hop.
The movie is currently streaming on Netflix. AllHipHop will present more of our conversation with Radha and Oswin soon.