EIFF Film review: The Great Hip Hop Hoax

FIRST things first, there’s nothing particularly great about the hip hop hoax examined in Jeanie Finlay’s otherwise fascinating documentary about two wannabe Scottish rappers who re-invented themselves as a Californian hip hop duo.

The stars of The Great Hip Hop Hoax. Picture: Contributed
The stars of The Great Hip Hop Hoax. Picture: Contributed

The Great Hip Hop Hoax

Edinburgh International Film Festival

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    They may have duped a few record companies and management firms into taking them seriously enough to spend a decent chunk of change trying to break them to a wider audience, but what they achieved didn’t bring the industry quaking to its knees, nor did it change the way business was done. It didn’t even seem to cause much of a ripple in the media.

    What it did do, however, was illustrate the extraordinary lengths to which some people are prepared to go to in order to achieve what they think they want from life and this is where Finlay’s film has real value: as a study of fame’s allure and the obsessive nature of those who chase it.

    Indeed, in detailing the story of how best friends Billy Boyd and Gavin Bain decided to take revenge on a music industry that had dismissed them for sounding like rapping Proclaimers (not an entirely inaccurate assessment), Finlay does a good job of teasing out the toll their reinvention as rap duo Silibil ‘n’ Brains took on their lives, as they committed to playing their roles 24/7.

    Because they documented their antics on video before such things became the norm, Finlay has a wealth of archival material to draw from and these provide a striking contrast with Boyd and Bain now as they reflect – separately – on their story in lengthy talking head interviews. It’s an intriguing and slightly tragic tale, not least because they could probably have got away with using American accents without all the deceit.

    After all, it worked for The Jesus and Mary Chain and Primal Scream.