In 1989, a courageous woman named B. Hall and her son, R. Kain Blaze, decided that L.A. underground hip-hop needed a new home. At the Good Life Café, a health food center in South Central Los Angeles, on Thursday nights from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., ambitious artists gathered to test their skills on the mic. Some got boo’ed (There’s a humbling tale of Bronx rapper Fat Joe asking to freestyle without music and getting verbally pushed off stage.), and some gained much-deserved recognition.
Directed and written by Ava DuVernay, a participant of the Good Life sessions herself as Eve, This Is The Life features artists lavishing praise on the movement. It was definitely a positive, free-for-all gathering that gave lyricists a chance to show and (im)prove.
More notable names like Cut Chemist, 2Mex, Medusa, Abstract Rude, Aceyalone and Garth Trinidad check in, as do more under the radar emcees who were elated to receive their 15 minutes of fame.
Watching this doc gives real insight into the local scene in the early ’90s, the so-called Golden Era of Hip-Hop. While the film has a decidedly optimistic and celebratory feel for the duration, the final minutes end on a more disappointed note, specifically as to why the Good Life emcees and movement never got more mainstream notice and notes (dollar bills, ya’ll).
Some of the more interesting moments are when Cut Chemist and others sound off on him being the only white person in the place and the musings about 2Mex representing for the Latinos. It’s also fun to see first-hand how Myka Nyne was probably one of the biggest influences on Bone Thugs-n-Harmony’s rapid-fire melodic style, which catapulted them to fame.
Little rap gems like these pepper This Is The Life and give an amazingly thorough picture of the Good Life in Los Angeles.
This Is The Life releases in select theaters March 11.