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B.A.R.S. 2 is one of the most recent efforts in the burgeoning UK underground music dvd scene. Produced by a crew calling themselves Low Budget TV their B.A.R.S. ("Black Arts Rule Streets") dvd series aims to cover all aspects of young black life in Britain. This marks it out from some of the other, more grime-focused, dvd's like 'Practice Hours' and 'Risky Roadz' that I've seen so far. Unlike those, which barely left a small part of the East London grime scene, in B.A.R.S. 2 the film-makers went out around England to interview people from both the UK hip-hop and grime scenes. They then mixed this footage up with street freestyles, street fights, club footage, going behind the scenes at music video shoots and interviews with people like Shaun Wallace, the first black winner of Mastermind, and Patrick Kluivert of Newcastle United.
One of the main things you notice when you watch this is how well it's put together. Right at the beginning the main guy behind LBTV, a dude named E. Monourver, is explaining how he's totally self-taught and how he started out just messing around, putting together footage for when his friend got out of jail. In this context this dvd is pretty impressive stuff. Digital technology has really leveled the playing field for aspiring documentary makers. The editing, sound, and camera work is, generally speaking, up to quite a high standard. The only technical problem is that on a couple of the interviews the sound drops out on one channel. I dunno if that's on all the copies, or just the one I got, or if it's some codec problem with my computer.
There's also quite a pleasing variety of stuff. There's a lot of UK Hip-Hop on here, which is cool to see because I don't keep up with that scene at all. I have to be honest and say that I don't really have much interest in UK Hip-Hop, because, well, I find it kind of boring. Still, though, it's kind of cool to get a little bit of a sense as to what is going on with that scene. On the grime tip there's not a huge amount (apparently there's going to be a lot more grime on volume 3), but there are a couple nice bits, like some freestyles from Kano and Ghetto of Nasty Crew (well, until the last couple weeks when they officially left), some club footage, and some interviews with people like Flow Dan from Roll Deep, a bunch of people from Nasty (Demon, Marcus Nasty, and Kano), and Mike Skinner's new signings the Mitchell Brothers, amongst others. There's also, let's be honest here, some segments on some pretty wack musicians, like Ipswich grime crew Hectic Squad (chorus to their tune: "What you know about Ips? We're the top boys in Ips". Christ.), some rap duo named Trics and Vics (they show a bit of one of their videos and NO LIE it is one of the worst things I've ever seen...Star Trek uniforms and all), but presumably you gotta work with who is willing to show up, and I figure that, based on how good a job they did making this, there should be some bigger and better people on the next volume. Even the interviews with the bad musicians are ok, because the LBTV crew keep things moving pretty briskly and you don't have to hear too much of their music. The only scene on the dvd that I think is a complete and utter waste of time is the bit where they are following the Newcastle United footballers Titus Bramble, Jermaine Jenas, and Keiron Dyer around on a night out as they get hassled by the paparazzi. It goes on for a while and it seems kind of pointless...like, I dunno, I'm not really surprised that professional athletes get followed around by photographers. Dudes are getting paid millions to kick a ball around and live out the fantasies of tens of millions of people. Of course there's going to be trade-offs. But that's a whole separate issue. Plus it doesn't seem to have that much to do with the music stuff that dominates the rest of the dvd, beyond the fact that these guys are actually living the lifestyle that all the music types are so desperately hungry for.
All in all, this is quite a good dvd. For someone looking for a total immersion grime experience, this ain't it, but it is cool as a general overview of the state of the black music scene in England. It's well paced, professionally shot, and slickly put together. Well done, and I'm looking forward to the third volume.
- A brief clip of Wiley mc'ing over jungle back in the day. Wearing a truly monstrous tracksuit top.
- A behind the scenes on the video shoot for Nikki Slimting's 'The Link Up' where an army of grime mc's got the chance to do a London version of the formulaic American 'hoochies in the pool, champagne in the glass' rap video. Cheesy but fun. The behind the scenes at Akon's video shoot in Peckham for the 'Ghetto' video is kind of cool as well.
- Some nice bits from a grime rave in Tottenham with Kano, Ghetto, and Wiley on the mic.
- Street fighting scenes. Nothing serious happens, just some shoving, some shouting, the odd flying fist, but nothing major. Fun in a voyeuristic way.
- The Mitchell Brothers interview. I thought 'Routine Check' was a bit meh as a single, but they seem like pretty sensible guys with some interesting stuff to say. The sort of people you'd be happy to have a beer with.
Cross-posted from Riddim.ca.