[Author’s Note: Yes, we also do written content. We apologize for the sporadic presentation of such for the past few months. Life happens. Anyway: parts of this post were written last year when we got to see it before its then fully national rollout. The post has been updated to reflect new developments for the film.]
Full disclosure: I’m kind of a Bobbito fanboy.
Like, second-generation fanboy. Dude made the experience of playing NBA Street (what up to my gamers) an unforgettable experience. And after a bit more maturity, his connections to so many avenues of NY culture made him a paragon of what it meant to really be hip-hop—to be from NY, in my world. Fast forward a few years later, some chance meetings, and the discovery that we share an alma mater, and I’m for sure #TeamBobbito
All that said, it’s kind of funny that I never experienced Bobbito’s greatest contribution to The Culture. As a kid born in the 90’s, I just missed the greatness of The Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Show. By some cruel twist of fate, I didn’t get to enjoy it as it happened, in real time. Luckily, Stretch and Bobbito joined forces in the last few years to tell their story right with Stretch & Bobbito: Radio That Changed Lives. In the documentary, they revisit the rise, impact, and fall of their radio show, broadcast out of Columbia University’s student-run station and, later, Hot 97’s studios.
The film uses a treasure trove of archival footage from the duo’s tenure (1990-98). The way it’s blended into the the narrative is amazing, especially when you pair it with current interviews with legends like Nas, Busta Rhymes, and more. The best part about this is that the film takes on a meta experience when Stretch and Bobbito often stop asking questions and just play old interviews back to their subjects. In this fun, reflective way, rappers and personalities face themselves and their history with real-time reactions. It’s funky as hell and makes for some great moments — from Eminem crediting the the show as being a platform to his meteoric rise to Jay Z shaking his head, ice grillin’ the pure rawness of his younger self.
The part of the film that shines most, though, is its commitment to telling a full story. For all the laughs and heavy reminiscing on the Golden Age of The Culture, Stretch & Bobbito really tries to tell things from a POV that is mature and open. This is a feat worth noting when you put a fine tooth comb to the credits; Bob is the sole writer and director of the film. While Stretch is music director, and it’s clearly their story, it’s dope to see Bob’s directorial attention to how the film is constructed. His fingerprint is evident in the care put into telling an empathetic and holistic story, and not a one-sided affair.
This manifests in many ways. For instance, the film spends a solid amount of time discussing the male-dominated arena of hip-hop and how that affected the show itself. In another vignette, Stretch and Bobbito discuss the devolution of their relationship (at the time) and their subsequent breakup. And, in another bit, they honestly reflect on the fact that they truly created the springboard for so many artists for free. It’s a humbling moment that has as many implications for them as it does for so many of us who document, support, and build platforms for artists like ourselves — often with little to no plan for revenue. That in itself is a narrative that needs its own film. But here in Stretch & Bobbito, it highlights the almost pure naivete and love that the two had for the explosion of culture that was happening around, and because of, them.
Despite this, and other ups and downs, the story told is one of the exciting, rapturous, tumultuous, and rapid birth of an entire culture that the subjects were on the pulse of. For that reason alone, Stretch & Bobbito is a treasure, just as the men themselves are. And not just for hip-hop history, but for radio history, musical history, and American history as well. So don’t wait to catch it! They recently got syndicated on Showtime and the doc should also be avail via VOD on the internets somewhere.
The Original Homeboy with a Keyboard ™, dap wants to be an enigma, but he’s pretty transparent. A transplant from “Back East,” he found himself in Oakland writing about alla the fun things. He’s in love with the coco(a) (skinned women and butter,) among other things. @dapisdope