In Three Words: Essence, Family, Modern
So for those that don't know, last year I interviewed Hip-Hop artist Awon. Prior to that, I listened to his latest work (and reason why I came to him for an interview) "Soulapowa" and through him I found his label "Don't Sleep Records".
Upon listening to more works under DSR such as Tiff The Gift & Anti Lilly, (& Phoniks) I felt warm knowing that there was an independent label out there where their work was true to my admittedly conservative view of what Hip-Hop should be.
I was happy just knowing this group of artists existed. But then Awon started plugging a Netflix Doc with his face on it. My first reaction was "Wow he kept that under wraps!". But then I finally made time to see it. And that warm feeling I gained was reintroduced to me with a heavier punch.
Directed by French filmmaker Teo Frank. The whole thing came out of pure coincidence, something I love on the face and connect many facets of what I do now to some level of coincidence, opportunity or just dumb luck, however you want to see it. He met a guy named Mason in Alaska and he put him onto another and then the snowball rolled down the hill.
Years of seeing a world that Frank as a person never experienced before became his wanting to be part of this unique family in some sort of way. And that's the feeling you gain the longer you watch. It's what a Doc of this style should succeed in. Showing you a world (and in this specific case, a sound) that you would want to be a part of.
Speaking of style. I was intrigued by Frank's style of filming. There's a little bit of post-event footage, a lot of voice-over from Frank telling this story. But a lot of it is very in-the-moment and the shots are given heavy doses & levels of soft and hard focus. It's very high art at times and makes the Doc very pleasing to watch.
But don't get it twisted. The greatest thing about this is the story and how everybody is given a chance to tell their own personal story. By the end of the Doc, you know about Awon, Phoniks, Tiff The Gift & Dephlow. And you love everyone involved. It's actually a great piece of directing by Frank to give everyone ample time whilst also progressing the story. It's paced very well.
This isn't a regular Documentary that makes a grandiose statement. The only concrete statement made here on the world outside of them are their ethics when creating Hip-Hop and what they think of the current Hip-Hop scene. But that's not elaborated on, which I'm completely fine with. Because it's not about that. "Underdogs" is all about how individuals can find kinship, how modern life can be extremely isolating but also make connections that would be impossible 15 years ago. They go from NY to Virginia to their first ever shows in Europe. The feelings at the end of the film can only be understood if you're an artist that values their past, but it's great to watch people get excited about performing like Awon & the DS gang get.
"Underdogs" is a lovely, visually pleasing documentary, rooted in curiosity & wanting to connect with people. Amazing people in front of the camera, the story arc is feel-good and it's even more rewarding if you're like me and love the music that the good people at "Don't Sleep" create.