BBC Storyville – ‘The Great Hip Hop Hoax’ – Silibil N’ Brains

Great documentary this, brilliantly shot with a quality story behind it. The Great Hip Hop Hoax is the story of Gavin Bain and Billy Boyd, Scottish rappers who, after being laughed out of A&R offices and struggling to find gigs in London, reinvented themselves as a Californian hip-hop duo named Silibil N’ Brains.

Almost instantly the industry was suddenly willing to give them more than a shot. Developing new personas, backstories (even studying maps of the area where they were now claiming to have met and grown up) and accents to boot, they never once came under suspicion from even those working closest with them on the project.

These guys were talented and worked hard, securing the record deal with a major that they’d always wanting, opening for D12 (who they’d never met but had claimed to know) and essentially cocking it all up for themselves on a professional and personal level.

There’s two real lessons from this story, the first being the pressure of an artist or group shooting to fame and then imploding from the inside. The usual stories of obsessive perfectionism and destroyed friendships as two-different personalities clash are prevalent. Add to it the fact that these guys were living a lie 24/7 and you’ve got a unique take on the story that just constantly leaves you in awe of their talent as actors and social engineering.

The second part of this is the scathing review of the music industry. The phone calls of London venues just not willing to even talk to the guys or listen to the demo are heartbreaking, and the flip-around to the recording deal is just disgusting. I definitely felt a tinge of guilt, having fielded some of those calls back in the record distribution days, but people get jaded very quickly, and the boss is always there to remind you that it’s business.

The story is a director’s dream, and they’ve presented it exceptionally well. The pair kept extensive video diaries of their antics as Americans throughout their short-lived career, and both were more than willing to look back and commentate many years on as well (though not together), not pulling any punches but being decidedly honest. Their’s a nice animation aspect that fills the gap in the story that archive couldn’t provide, and the paths that they took after they called it quits are equally fascinating. You’ll definitely grow attached to the Scottish chaps, and it’s rewarding that you get to see the aftermath.

Jeanie Finlay – the director who deserves endless amounts of applause – made the right call by not reuniting the pair for the documentary. Since it’s release though they have performed together, and even released new material. You can stay up-to-date with their actions here:

Took way too long to watch this after Jimmy Monsta Funk recommended it in his end of year chart. It’s no longer available on BBC iPlayer, but if you scour the internet you’re bound to find somewhere to pick it up or stream it. In the meantime, check the trailer below.