The Great Hip Hop Hoax Jeanie Finlay

The Great Hip Hop Hoax Jeanie Finlay

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Last year, the Academy Award for Best Documentary was presented to Searching For Sugar Man, the unbelievable account of how enigmatic musician Rodriguez stayed true to himself and became a legend in South Africa without being aware of it for decades.

Like some inverse bizarro version of his career arc, The Great Hip Hop Hoax tells the astounding story of rap act, Silibil 'n Brains, a duo ostensibly from California who quickly built a steady buzz in England. What's truly remarkable about their meteoric rise is the fact that the two actually hailed from Scotland and fully committed to maintaining the lie for a couple of years.

Friends from first sight as classmates, Gavin and Billy learned pretty quickly that-- despite having an obvious talent for funny and potent rhymes in the style of Eminem and the Beastie Boys-- doors were abruptly closed in their face after learning where they were from. Inadvertently discovering that people became far more interested when they jokingly adopted American accents, the two then crafted obnoxious skater personas and went chasing their dreams in London.

Things started happening for them almost immediately; an A&R rep from a renowned record company greeting them as they stepped off the stage following their very first show. But as they went deeper into creating the fictitious back-story, being branded as the next big thing, cracks began to show in the façade, making it harder to separate the invented characters from their real selves, which created animosity in the friendship.

Through revealing home video footage, amusingly off-kilter animations, and interviews with all of the principals—including the now-estranged Gavin and Billy, their families, and those in the industry who were being hoodwinked despite spending every day with them in some cases— a riveting satire of the music industry unfolds. If not for the human drama involved in these exuberant and ruthlessly ambitious personalities trying to bluff their way to the top, it would almost be funny.

In a precarious business where image is everything and what's hot one day probably won't be the next, they made a conscious decision to sacrifice their identities for a better chance at success. While it may not exactly be Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil at the crossroads, there was a steep price to pay all the same.

This is an entirely new, engrossing vision of the American dream, where the Americans are fake and the dream's in England. (BBC Scotland)