13 March 2011 | bob the moo
Weak structure and some cheap aspects but the content will mean fans of the music and the period will enjoy it
As I said on my Beef user-comment, I only became aware of this series of films because of Canibus going after Quincy Jones III for supposedly not paying anyone for their contributions, but when I watched the first Beef documentary I actually quite liked it and thought it did a good job of capturing some famous battles. In this second film there is some overlap but it tries to present a slightly different approach by focusing on beefs that mostly start from business situations; whether it be people lifting from other people's work, arguments over money, arguments over things said in the media and so on.
This structure doesn't quite stay in place though because while some of the fights do start over stolen lines or beats, we ultimately do have many that start over words spoken in public towards the other artist, with a thin connection to being "business related" because they were said between people in a sort of business relationship. OK, this aside though the film still does a solid enough job of capturing these moments in hip-hop history but the weaker structure to the film means it is sporadic without a good connection between the various segments. This does weaken the film because the first Beef did manage to have an overall flow that held the segments together but here it is less so.
As before the best segments are not necessarily the best or biggest battles but rather the ones where both sides are talking. So in particular although one could say unkind things about the status of D12 and Royce da 5'9", their segment is really engaging because it does show how things escalate and how things said on a record or in an interview can get out of hand very quickly. Conversely the segments on LL/Canibus and KRS1/Nelly (who?) makes a good point about the role played by the corporations behind the larger artist – it is a good point but one the film doesn't follow up on particularly well despite claiming this topic as the overall thread for this film – again because of the weaker structure.
The structure isn't helped by the slight feeling that, while interesting, Beef II was perhaps produced as a cheaper produce. Many of the interviews are clearly from those used for the first film so you do get the feeling of QB3 chuckling to himself about only having to pay interview crews once for material he can get several products out of. I'm not saying the whole film is like this or that the product is cheap, just that it can feel that way when so much looks like it was done on one afternoon. The cheap and unnecessary re-enactments also don't help either, as they smack of a second rate Crimewatch show and they do nothing to help the telling of the stories. Likewise rapid editing of video clips over audio of someone talking may appeal to the MTV generation but it tended to distract from what was being said – it would have been better to have allowed a long shot of the interviewee or to have played audio over still pictures of the individual talking in a radio station; less exciting and less energy perhaps but it would have improved the feel of the product as a documentary.
As before, this film is not strong enough to interest those with no interest in hip-hop although it may have enough familiar faces to interest those casual viewers with a passing knowledge of the artists involved. For fans of the genre it is a good film because, for all its missed opportunities and structural weaknesses, it does capture moments in hip-hop that otherwise would fade away and be forgotten. Not a great documentary then but well worth a look for genre fans who want to look back on these moments.