In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s there were many music movements taking over the world. Grunge rock, "gangsta'" rap and one movement that was just as important, yet didn't receive mainstream attention: The Good Lifers
movement. They were a group of talented Los Angeles teens giving a different option for hip hop from the popularized west coast gangsta style. Communing at The Good Life Health Food store from 1989 to 1995 for open mic night, their talents attracted attention from Lenny Kravitz
, Fat Joe
, Ice Cub
e and even Shannen Doherty
of “90210” fame. Many artists were signed, all on the verge of massive success—however, it never happened.
The documentary about the Good Lifers, “This Is The Life,” hits DVD today. Critically acclaimed, the film, directed by Ava DuVernay
, was the winner of Audience Awards in Toronto, Los Angeles and Seattle. At first, one might think, "Another documentary on hip hop?" But, “This is The Life” gives a fresh, introspective look at teenagers who challenged the pop standard all through creativity, talent and passion. This little-known musical movement is humanized with the stories of artists and groups like Medusa
, Figure of Speech
, Pigeon John
and Freestyle Fellowship
; artists who never got their respect in the music industry.
“This Is The Life” includes vintage footage from the days of The Good Life, which is interesting to watch and hear. But, the real truth is when you hear the personal stories of the artists. One rapper, Peace
, was diagnosed with schizophrenia, which put a halt to his career with the group Freestyle Fellowship. There is insight from the female artists such as Medusa and Figure of Speech, who gave sharp takes on gender. Most surprisingly, are the accusations that artists like Ice Cube, Dr. Dre
and groups like Bones Thugs N Harmony
allegedly stole ideas from The Good Lifers crew.
The documentary skillfully and honestly answers the question, "Why didn't they make it?" Several artists were signed to labels, graced the covers of magazines, and had music videos, but still fell short of the glory. As one person explained, The Good Lifers were more concerned with just being artists rather than businesspeople. In trying to answer the question, DuVernay reveals a vicious, seedy and manipulative side of the music industry that every aspiring artist from rock to hip hop should know.
While there have been countless documentaries on hip hop, this is a story that needs to be told. After the film’s 97 minutes end, “This Is The Life” manages to restore your faith in the art form of hip hop. Maybe hip hop isn’t dead.
“This Is The Life” is available on DVD today. You can purchase at www.goodlifelove.com
and it's also available on Netflix and Indie Flix.
Check out the trailer!