There is an absurdly vast selection of music movies and documentaries available on Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, and on and on and on. But it’s hard to tell which ones are actually worth your 100 minutes. Watch the Tunes will help you pick what music doc is worth your Netflix and Chill time every weekend. This week’s edition covers Stretch and Bobbito: Radio That Changed Lives, which is streaming over on Showtime.
Hip hop has a long and storied history of hyped up braggadocio, but believe me when I tell you that the title of this week’s Watch The Tunes entry, Stretch And Bobbito: Radio That Changed Lives, is no joke. In fact, you may end up thinking that it’s downright humble by the time that the credits start rolling. I listed this doc on my run down of “2015’s Best Music Documentaries” back in December when it was only available for rent on Vimeo, and now that it’s finally out there streaming on Showtime, the story can finally be told in full.
Radio That Changed Lives goes a really long way to solidifying the duo’s status as the tastemakers they were. It’s incredibly slick and well produced, with various graffiti handstyle interstitials. The volume of archival audio and video footage here is insane and would be required viewing even if it was just released on its own.
One of the most unexpected joys of Radio That Changed Lives is watching rappers like Nas, Fat Joe, and Jay-Z listen back to verses they put down over two decades ago. It’s like showing someone a picture of themselves at a birthday party that they had totally forgotten about. That kind of oddly intimate moment happens all the time in the film and it never gets old. Late in Radio That Changed Lives there’s a card that pops up informing the viewer that “The total record sales for all the artists that premiered on their show exceed 300 million” and while that may be true in a technical sense, it’s totally beside the point. These were rappers who would go on to define a generation of a whole medium, and they all spent time kicking bar after bar over beats spun live in studio. Being invited on the Stretch & Bobbito Show wasn’t just an honor but it was also where you went to hone your craft and pay dues.
It’s wild to think that there was a time when Biggie could’ve lost to a group calling themselves The Bronx Zu rappin over some warmed up daisy-age loops, but it happened and ended up resulting in one of the most memorable moments in the film:
Like all good things, it came to an end before the turn of the millennium. Stretch and Bobbito’s relationship had been falling apart in slow-motion with Stretch sometimes just not showing up at all for shows. It wasn’t the most dignified ending, but it was honest in its own way. They eventually patched things up and in 2013 had a reunion show in their old late-night spot on WKCR, right back where they started. Not long after that, they would end up collaborating on this incredibly fun and energetic documentary with Bobbito directing and Stretch acting as, what else, music supervisor. Radio That Changed Lives is a uniquely sublime hip-hop time capsule that you should not miss.
Chris Lay is a freelance writer, archivist, and record store clerk living in Madison, WI. The very first CD he bought for himself was the Dumb & Dumber soundtrack when he was twelve and things only got better from there.
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