The Hip Hop Project Debuts Nationwide, Program Founder Speaks About Film
The Hip Hop Project was executive produced by Bruce Willis and Queen Latifah and is the story of Chris "Kazi" Rolle, who discovered a program for at risk youth titled Art-Start, at an alternative high school in New York City as a teenager.
During the film, which was shot over the course of 5 years, Kazi challenges other at-risk youth who come to the Art Start program to write and compose a Hip-Hop album.
The students must follow a step-by-step curriculum, maintain their grades, create a budget, put together recording contracts, write lyrics, produce beats, and perform and record the music.
“This movie has come at time when the culture needs a make over and more balance in the area of content," Kazi said. "I think it represents the true essence of the culture which is resiliency. We make something out of nothing. We turn our pain into art and give voice to the voiceless.”
The mission was accomplished with the help of longtime supporter and Hip-Hop mogul Russell Simmons, when he partners with Bruce Willis to donate a recording studio to the program, so the students can realize their dream of recording and releasing the album.
"We wanted to support this group," Russell Simmons said. "They do amazing work. It all came together when Bruce brought it to us. It was a natural fit."
The movie chronicles five years of the students lives, as they collaborate to realize their dream of producing an album filled with personal narratives and poignant social commentary.
According to Kazi, the film was inspired by the 1994 hit documentary Hoop Dreams.
“I am honored and feel truly blessed to continue the inspiration that I received from Arthur Agee, one of the stars of Hoop Dreams," Kazi said. "That movie sparked the idea to do this one. That was about basketball this one is about music. I am also just excited to have a feature film about me, my fam and this movement I started. I got a lot of love healing, love and encouragement [from making this film] and I have gotten an overwhelming amount of positive responses from different ages and races. I have gotten more confidence in being different in an art form that on a mainstream level has become very generic and ‘copycatish.’”
Last week, anticipating audiences packed the Tribeca Film Festival during screenings of The Hip Hop Project, which was directed by Matt Ruskin and Scott Rosenberg and produced by Pressure Point Films.
The 90 minute film, which is rated PG-13, also focuses on Kazi's mission to reunite with his biological mother.
All of the net profits from the film are being donated to organizations working with youth. The Hip Hop Project opens nationally today (May 11).