Made in America, the Ron Howard-directed documentary about the festival of the same name that Jay Z put on in Philadelphia last year, had its world premiere at TIFF last week and will air Oct. 11 on Showtime.
Howard is hardly the first person that comes to mind when you think about hip-hop, but he's managed to craft an incredibly engaging look at one of the most successful rappers of his generation, as well as capture some great interviews with an eclectic cast of performers, such as Eddie Vedder, Janelle Monáe, the Hives, Odd Future and Jill Scott.
Below, here are our five favourite moments (spoiler alert: it's all spoilers).
1. There’s an excellent reason for Janelle Monáe’s uniform
Janelle Monáe is known as much for her energetic and experimental R&B as she is for her trademark style: gravity-defying pompadour and black-and-white suits. The reason for the suits? It’s an homage to her Kansas City working-class parents, who always had to wear uniforms in their various jobs. Monáe’s dad was a “trash man,” her mom was a janitor and a maid and Monáe herself entered talent shows while holding down various jobs, such as a clerk at Blockbuster and as a maid. "We would both put on our uniforms and know what time it was," she says in the film.
2. Run-D.M.C. had no idea who Aerosmith was
There’s no doubt that 1986’s Raising Hell was the album that turned New York's Run-D.M.C. into the biggest rap group in the world, but it was the rock-rap collaboration with Aerosmith, “Walk this Way,” that made them crossover giants. In Made in America, Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels talks about how it was a last-minute addition to the album made at the behest of producer Rick Rubin. Run-D.M.C. were already rapping over the song at live shows, but they didn’t know it was called “Walk this Way,” and had no clue who Aerosmith was.
“We used to say get out that Toys in the Attic joint,” he says, referring to the name of the Aerosmith album that “Walk this Way” originally appears on. They also used to mix it so that guitars and Steven Tyler’s voice could never be heard, so they were surprised when Rubin suggested they simply rap the original lyrics, which D.M.C. admits he thought was “hillbilly gibberish.”
3. Odd Future know how to name their pets
The entire segment where Howard, the wholesome and family-friendly actor/director, meets Odd Future, one of the most controversial rap groups probably since N.W.A., is brilliant and hilarious for so many reasons. One of them is the fact that when OF show Howard their tour bus, they introduced him to their two goldfish, the Ying Yang Twins.
4. Rita Ora has a royal connection
Rita Ora is a British singer-songwriter who released her debut album in 2012, which includes the hit “How We Do (Party).” But before she was all about the “party and bullshit,” she says her first run-in with fame was as a six-year-old partaking in the candle lighting ceremony at Princess Diana’s funeral. After getting a taste of the spotlight, she never looked back.
5. If you weren’t a fan of Jay Z before, you will be
Throughout the film, Jay Z says a lot of inspiring things, especially about how music can help people come together, how he made something from nothing, etc., etc., but it’s his interaction with a two-year-old boy that caused the collective “awww” in the theatre, making everyone an instant fan.
Follow Jesse Kinos-Goodin on Twitter: @JesseKG
on Sep 09, 2013