From foster home to homelessness, the lifeline for Kazi was hip-hop. As he explains in the film, “the criminal mind is a creative mind,” and so after years of struggling to make ends meet, he decides to shift gears and start the Hip Hop Project, using music to help kids who were going through similar growing pains that he had gone through.
While wanting to rap is nothing new, these kids all find their way to Kazi, who has made it his mission to challenge them to not only follow through on their dreams, but to touch on the real issues that affect their lives and not just regurgitate what is being sold in the mainstream (pimps, hoes, crack, money.) Unlike the messages that are being repeatedly conveyed these days, the point illustrated in this film is to uplift, heal and find purpose in all parts of life, with Hip-Hop as the vehicle.
After years of “pre-production” that included both elevating their thinking and perfecting their craft, the up-and-coming rappers were forced to face yet another obstacle: lack of funding for their project. Enter long time supporter, Russell Simmons and his friend Bruce Willis.
The duo donate a recording studio to The Hip Hop Project with the hopes that in a few years there would be more organizations that would follow in its footsteps. After four long years, the group is finally able to tell their stories and see the fruits of their labor.
The Hip Hop Project is both compelling and inspirational. Beyond that, it gives a much-needed voice to the impoverished youth fraught with the burdens of everyday life, and it shows the transformation of a young man who has been trying to make sense of his own inner turmoil.
With high profile names such as Willis and Queen Latifah attached to the project, one can only hope that the same amount of attention is given to this film as Hustle & Flow , which featured a soundtrack with the Academy Award-winning song “It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp.” Because when all is said and done, it's harder out here for a kid with a dream, trying to walk a righteous path.