Every hip-hop lover needs to see this documentary
“Word is Bond” is available on Showtime until the end of February.
Listening to two-thirds of hip-hop group The Lox discuss the best movie about breakdancing, “Breakin’ vs. Beat Street?,” is just one of the joys of watching the stellar hip-hop documentary “Word is Bond.”
The 86-minute film—which recently premiered on Showtime—is made up of vignettes that look into the lives of several legendary rappers, including Nas, Jadakiss and Rakim.
Filmmaker Sacha Jenkins—a longtime hip-hop writer and content extraordinaire—knew he was getting the cream of the crop to reveal their processes here. And while “Word is Bond” feels like it’s lacking a few iconic wordsmiths, say Eminem (who is referenced in the film) or Black Thought of the Roots, it features your favorite MCs talking about their lyrics and how they craft their raps while including quirky moments that remind you they’re people too.
Perhaps the greatest thing about “Word is Bond” is that it’s like an Inside the Actors Studio, but for the craft of hip-hop. The discussions the rappers have with the camera are like oral liner notes to how their brains and mouths make rap music. It’s both religion and sport, as Jadakiss and Styles P say in a scene where they equate rapping with boxing.
Seeing Big Daddy Kane break down his life and rhyme story with a snazzy bowtie on—somehow it works for him, but we miss the silk player shirts from his heyday—is one of the best moments in “Word is Bond.”
But there are definitely more, like when Rakim reveals his first rhyme was about Mickey Mouse. Or, when “Word is Bond” nails the greatest year in early hip-hop: 1986. The big bang of rap music years.
But the doc isn’t stuck in the past either. It also feels very current. “Hip-hop dictates everything. Shout out to Kanye West,” Pusha-T closed out his segment by saying.
For those who harbor an interest in becoming rappers, Tech9 explains breath control. He also shows off a huge warehouse full of things like t-shirts, hats, ladies panties and everything else that his brand of rap music has afforded him. The city he’s from, Kansas City, isn’t always equated with hip-hop but “Word is Bond” does a great job of featuring the area’s raging superhero.
“Word is Bond” is inclusive of hip-hop and how it’s traveled. It gives Brother Ali and Atmosphere rapper Slug some quality screen time when the documentary lands in Minnesota. Slug talks about how driving stimulates his rhyme creativity and features a scene of Slug eviscerating an opponent at a Scribble Jam rap battle in the late 90s. “Word is Bond” also follows Philadelphia rapper Freeway on his journey to get a kidney transplant and shows how rap helped him through it.
Along the way, controversial topics such as ghostwriting in hip-hop come up for debate, making it worthwhile for students of the art form. The documentary is available on the Showtime app and Showtime.com until the end of February.