Edinburgh Bites: The Great Hip Hop Hoax Review

Mike Scurfield catches The Great Hip Hop Hoax at the Edinburgh International Film Festival...

Backwards caps, bleach-blonde hair, wild attitudes and even wilder rhymes, American rap duo Silibil ‘n’ Brains are tipped for global success. With a suburban California upbringing to bolster their UK street cred, it isn’t long before record deals are signed, studio time booked and album artwork created, as their authentic West Coast sound is prepared for the masses. The only catch: they’re not authentic. Silibil ‘n’ Brains, AKA Billy Boyd and Gavin Bain, are from Scotland. And they’re taking everyone for a rock and roll ride.

Pitched as a revealing of the truth by the perpetrators behind this incredible deception, the minute Boyd and Bain unleash their pitch-perfect American accents, it’s easy to see how they pulled it off. The homely pair completely reinvent themselves as ostentatious American stereotypes, and some of the most insightful moments in Jeanie Finlay’s sprightly, playful documentary deal with just how much the determined duo begin to believe their own lies. Using crude, scratch-drawn animation sequences to fill in the story points not captured on home-video, this humorous rap ruse unfolds at a snappy pace, but does suffer from an overall lack of import.

Where Silibil ‘n’ Brains set out to highlight the hypocrisy of the music industry, riled after being labelled the “rapping Proclaimers”, the documentary fails to pick up where they left off. Finlay is willing to let industry mogul Jonathan Shalit hang himself on camera, but the majority focus instead shifts to a traditional ‘break-up of the band’ story. Expect none of the insight of Metallica: Some Kind of Monster in this musical fantasy gone awry, though. Add to this, a nagging lack of contributions from family, old friends and those who knew the truth, and The Great Hip Hop Hoax doesn’t have the lyrical comebacks to battle its clear subjectivity. To know the premise is to know the whole tale.

- out of 10
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out of 10

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