|Title:||Sound and Motion: Vol. 1 / And Ya Don't Stop: Hip Hop's Greatest Videos (2000)|
Sound & Motion: Volume 1
And Ya Don't Stop: Hip Hop's Greatest Videos
And Ya Don't Stop: Hip Hop's Greatest Videos
Sound & Motion: Standard 1.33:1; audio English DD 5.1 & PCM Stereo; subtitles none; single sided - single layered; 16 chapters; rated NR; $19.95; 5/2/00.
And Ya Don't Stop: Standard 1.33:1; audio English PCM Stereo; subtitles none; single sided - single layered; 12 chapters; rated NR; $19.95; 4/25/00.
|Purchase:||Sound & Motion | Novel|
Picture/Sound/Extras: Sound & Motion A-/A-/D-
Although the forms possess some similarities, hip hop and "electronic music" (aka techno, drum 'n' bass, and about a million other names) differ in quite a few ways. For one, the former is much more lyric-driven than the latter, which largely is instrumental in nature.
More significant, though, is each form's position in the culture. A few years ago, electronica was viewed as the "next big thing". Everyone was convinced that Prodigy would be huge and that techno would rise above its isolated popularity (mostly amongst young "ravers").
That never happened. Prodigy's "The Fat of the Land" sold decently but the group have essentially vanished without a trace since then, taking Liam Howlett - "The Prodigy" himself - and his ego along with them. (I recall being annoyed by his arrogance; both Madonna and Bowie had made overtures to have him work with them, but he refused because he didn't want to "give away" his precious sound. Keep telling yourself you made the correct decision when you're selling sneakers at Foot Locker, Liam.) Electronica's definitely still out there, and it's a fairly popular form, but it hasn't reached any sort of mass success, and most of its practitioners remain more or less unknown to the general public.
Sound & Motion Volume 1 provides a nice overview of the style. We find a whopping 16 videos on this DVD:
The styles vary a bit but tend toward semi-trippy visuals accompanied by fast-moving beats. I was actually surprised how many of these songs I recognized; tunes like "Block Rockin' Beats" and "The Rockafeller Skank" will be immediately familiar to a lot of non-fans like myself.
While I generally enjoyed this collection, it wasn't enough to sell me on electronica. A few of the songs have some potential, but the medium seems too dance-floor oriented for my liking; the tunes lose a lot when you sit and watch the videos. The clips tend to be fairly inventive and interesting; "Simple Man", which creates a story of a radio that becomes a star and features cameos from Kurt Loder and Charlie Rose, easily is the most fun of the bunch, but others like "Temper Temper" are entertaining as well. (By the way, if Goldie looks familiar, he also appeared in the last Bond movie, The World Is Not Enough, as Mr. Bullion.)
This collection probably is best taken in small doses, as techno music tends to run together after a while. That's fine on the dance floor, where the beat rules all, but it's not as charming at home. The general level of the production is top-notch and the videos are mainly good when viewed in appropriately-brief measures. Sound & Motion may not make many converts to the techno revolution, but already-established fans will be happy to have a nice collection of videos, and those who'd like to know more about the format will find this DVD to provide a nice primer about this former "next big thing".
The videos of Sound and Motion appear in a variety of aspect ratios. Most of them utilize the standard 1.33:1, but we also see ratios of approximately 1.66:1, 1.85:1 and 2.35:1 as well, depending on the video and the director's mood. None of the letterboxed images are enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although the quality of the pictures varies wildly, I believe that all of them appear largely the way they were intended to look.
As such, that means that some of the videos seem insanely colorless or fuzzy or distorted or blurry or even grainy. It all depends on what the director wanted. The best I can say for this collection is that I never felt any outside factors influenced the appearance of the videos; each one seemed to cleanly represent the original product.
At their best, some of these clips look terrific. The better-looking videos - such as "Block Rockin' Beats" or "Bursting Off the Backbeat" - were razor-sharp and boasted bright, vibrant colors, deep blacks and no video interference. The only complications I witnessed came from jagged edges, which tend to be more pervasive in fast-moving camerawork such as we find here; quite a few jaggies appeared, and these proved slightly distracting. Nonetheless, I found the overall quality of the visual aspects of these videos to seem superb.
Also terrific is the more important domain, the sound. Although each of the videos is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, don't expect that to mean much more than glorified stereo. All of the songs seem true to their original stereo roots, and the surrounds essentially do nothing more than lightly reinforce the music from the front speakers. This is fine with me, however, as it adds a nice layer of dimensionality to the mix but the rears don't overwhelm the track. Some other faux-5.1 mixes - such as those found on some volumes of Circuit - duplicate the front tracks in the rear in what I call "double stereo"; that effect can be annoying and distracting. The songs on S&M keep the music at the front where it belongs but they add a mild ambience that works nicely.
The degree of stereo separation depended completely on the song in question but usually was wide and broad. Some tunes came across as almost monaural - The Prodigy's "Poison" stands out in that regard - but most appeared well-defined and excitingly spatial.
The quality of the sound seems consistently strong. At times I wished for more low end - the styles of music on this DVD are extremely bass-heavy - but I think much of my dissatisfaction came from the limitations of my system; I lack a subwoofer, which may have added a great deal of the desired "oomph". Even without that extra speaker, I thought the songs sounded clear and well-defined. As with the visual quality, I noticed a lot of flaws in the audio, but these were all clearly intentional, as these styles of music tend to use a lot of distortion. The tunes appeared to accurately represent the original recordings and they consistently sounded great.
(For the record, S&M offers both DD 5.1 and PCM stereo tracks. I only listened thoroughly to the DD mix, but I flipped to the PCM version at times. It seemed clear and rich as well, so I don't anticipate it would present any problems.)
As far as supplemental features go, keep dreaming. All we find on S&M are for a few other programs: the anime hit Ghost In the Shell, hip hop drama Thicker Than Water, and the Talking Heads' concert classic Stop Making Sense. We also discover an anti-drug public service announcement from Public Enemy's Chuck D.
Picture/Sound/Extras: And Ya Don't Stop B-/B+/D-
While techno was touted as the "next big thing", 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 at a 1986 Run-DMC show with a crowd of 15,000 - 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 also 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 less positive overall than the smooth reproduction found on S&M; plenty more flaws appear during AYDS, though I still thought it was a very watchable production.
For the most part, two culprits cause the decline in quality: age and cost. The newest video on AYDS was made before the oldest on S&M, and some of the clips reach back into the Eighties, whereas the S&M videos are well-entrenched in the mid to late Nineties. As such, the AYDS pieces have had a lot longer 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 those on S&M 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 the S&M 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 the clarity of those found on S&M; 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. Unlike S&M, 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 system, but I got the impression the recordings themselves bore more of the responsibility than had been the case with S&M. Still, though the quality of sound didn't quite compare with that of S&M, I thought the songs on AYDS accurately represented the source material and they consistently sounded quite good.
As with S&M, we find nearly no supplemental features on AYDS. We get trailers for Thicker Than Water (again), Jamaican crime flick Third World Cop and the documentary Mandela. The ubiquitous Chuck D public service announcement appears as well. Yawn!
Despite some reservations about both packages, Sound & Motion and And Ya Don't Stop both make for solid primers on techno and hip hop, respectively. Since it packs in four more videos, S&M may be the better bargain, but AYDS is the more interesting package. Of course, such comparisons vaguely enter apples and oranges territory; ultimately, I think fans of both genres will really like these compilations, and each one provides prospective fans of the formats solid introductions to them.