A New Documentary Shows Rap Has Been Around For More Than 70 Years (Video)

Ron “Amen Ra” Lawrence may not be a household name producer, but he’s made hits that many know. The Dominica-born, Queens, New York-raised producer is an integral part of Puff Daddy’s Hitmen collective at Bad Boy, with credits on Biggie Smalls’ “Hypnotize,” Puffy’s “Been Around The World,” and The LOX’s “Money, Power, Respect.” The longtime musical partner of Deric “D-Dot” Angelettie recently took his talents to film.

The Rap Dimension, stylized after The Twilight Zone, finds the producer (who attended the New York Film Academy) looking deep within the history of Rap. From using rare 1940s film footage, Amen Ra shows how the rhythm and timing of spitting verses predates the Hip-Hop park jam. To drive his points home, the former Howard University classmate of Puffy and D-Dot throws some drum beats on things. He mixes up Nas, Sugarhill Gang, Chubb Rock, Jimmy Castor Bunch, Funky 4 + 1, Eric B. & Rakim, and much more. But he sets it against Disney shorts, Batman, The Shawshank Redemption, and a host of other media. Along the way, from parks to barbershops, Amen Ra interviews people of varying ages and asks them about the first time they heard Rap. Perhaps the thesis is: Rap has been around us for a lot longer than we realize.

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This documentary is educational, but far from preachy. Different than the traditional doc’, Amen Ra treats it like a mash-up mix. He uses technology to cut and scratch some of the video footage. The editing has rhythm, flare, and a lot of pop culture savvy. While The Rap Dimension has some strong views on the current state of the art, it takes a colorful journey to get there that folks who appreciate mixed media, deep pop culture, and clever editing will appreciate, agree or not.

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Amen Ra drops some of his signature beats in there too.

Spotted at GrandGood.

#BonusBeat: Check this music video from Amen-Ra and D-Dot’s early 1990s group, Two Kings In A Cypher:

“Movin’ On ‘Em” features some slick rhyming over Sly Stone breaks.