Various Artists: Non-Stop Hip Hop: The Videos [DVD]

John Bergstrom

Various Artists

Non-Stop Hip Hop: the Videos [DVD]

Label: Razor & Tie

In many ways, every mainstream hip-hop act is a singles act. Because the race among fans to find the latest hot rapper, producer, or label is continuously being run in earnest, anything resembling staying power is reserved for the most steadfast cult acts and the most shrewd multimedia moguls. No flow is so smooth or beat too tight to ensure against eventual extinction; today's Aftermath can easily become tomorrow's No Limit. Such fleeting trends, and the resultant one hit wonders, make hip-hop more suited than most genres to instant-nostalgia, As Seen on TV compilations.

Razor & Tie's Non-Stop Hip Hop: The Videos takes this concept beyond the boom-box and into the DVD player. Bad idea. While many of the 15 tracks collected here are hip-hop classics in their own right, the attendant videos are not. The collection fails as a piece of cheap entertainment because visually, it's just not that entertaining, even as kitsch. Furthermore, it's far too shoddily presented to qualify as even an attempt at a document of cultural history.

First off, the packaging is laughable, if not offensive: With its pseudo-graffiti proclamation, "The Hottest Jamz Eva!", and bandana-and -Mike-Vick-jersey-clad G-Thang on the cover, it plays into the most basic hip-hop stereotypes while managing to be trashier than a bagful of No Limit artwork. Pop the disc in and the menus look like they were programmed by your younger brother for a school computer project -- 10 years ago. Yuck!

It's a shame, because much of the music featured here is excellent. Spanning the years 1986-1994, it predictably focuses on hip-hop as violence-free party music. That's fine when the party favors include Digital Underground's gloriously twisted take on P-Funk, "The Humpty Dance", Salt-N-Pepa's groundbreaking "Push It", and De La Soul's sublime "Me Myself and I". It's fascinating to be reminded that, pre-Swizz Beatz, Neptunes and the like, hip-hop backing tracks were largely influenced by disco, funk, and James Brown samples. With their uptempo rhythms, looped breakbeats, and analog synthesizers, most of these tracks hold up remarkably well. A decade before "rap metal" became a passing trend, Run DMC's "It's Tricky" and Tone Loc's "Wild Thing", both featured here, fused drum machines and scratching with heavy guitar riffs, and to much more enjoyable effect than, say, Linkin Park.

Visually, one can see some of hip-hop videos' most prominent running themes established: performance footage, close-ups of hands on turntables, goofy costumes, women, mugging, and dancing. The "guest star" precedent is also set, with Penn & Teller seen swindling Run DMC in "It's Tricky" and Q-Tip literally popping up in "Me Myself and I". Throughout, artistic vision is scarce, though it is nice to see Tone Loc suck the smug irony out of Robert Palmer's models-with-guitars "Addicted to Love" concept.

With any quick-fix compilation, there's going to be some trash, and Non-Stop Hip Hop: The Videos has trash to offer. MC Hammer's "U Can't Touch This" and Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby" will always be embarrassing, and it will always be difficult to fathom how they became hits. Beyond embarrassing, and downright surreal, is the sight of Brian Wilson and Beach Boy "friends" hamming it up with the Fat Boys on the ridiculous "Wipe Out". Wilson looks utterly lost, and it's no surprise that Mike Love and Bruce Johnston get most of the face time. Well, the joke's on you, Mike and Bruce! Amidst all the partying, Arrested Development's sanctimonious "Tennessee", with grainy shots of Old South lynchings, is simply out of place.

If some information was given about the videos' creation or directors, then perhaps this compilation could work as a sort of visual history. But there's scant information to be had. Worse, some of the videos are obviously rough transfers from old promotional reels. As for using Non-Stop Hip Hop: The Videos as a party-starter, the sound is crappy, too. Of course, it's too much to ask for the Criterion Collection for $19.95, but this makes one pine for the relatively respectable days of K-Tel.





The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".


Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".


Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.


Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.


The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".


Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.


Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.