Radio That Changed Lives: Documentary Film Review

By Wyndham Hacket Pain

“At that time your show was the most important show in the world,” Nas proclaims of The Strech Armstrong and Bobbito Show, which transmitted weekly between 1 am to 5 am on the college radio station WKCR.

Interest in the programme reached such heights in the 1990’s that there was a black market of bootlegged radio records that went across the USA and the broadcast was even referenced in the Wu-Tang Clan’s iconic song C.R.E.A.M. The combined record sales for all the artists that Stretch and Bobbito premiered exceeds 300 million and this will only continue to rise in the future.

Radio That Changed Lives, which tells the story of this show, takes a rather simple approach, showing a special time and place and interviewing those it meant a lot to. There is a brilliant array of archive footage and no shortage of now world renowned stars filmed rapping live on air before they were signed or known to the general public. Footage includes figures ranging from the likes of Jay-Z and Nas, Eminem and The Fugees, to the obscure and now forgotten. The documentary does a very good job of showing the energy and passion that keeps the programme in the hearts of its listeners almost 20 years since they left the air. It is particularly exciting to see a 16 year old Notorious B.I.G. freestyling in a cramped radio studio before the fame, record sales, and tragedy.

The documentary is not the most cinematic of films and structurally, is probably better suited to late night viewing at home but Radio That Changed Lives will delight hip hop and music fans who will be riveted throughout and will be reminded of what makes some of the songs they love so great.


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