Justin Bieber: Never Say Never
Director: Jon M. Chu
Even though it walked away with an MTV Movie Award and made John Waters' Best of 2011 list, many still refuse to acknowledge Justin Bieber's concert documentary. It's been dismissed as cashing in on idol-worship, but is anything but. Director Chu has crafted a truly inspiring story about a poor kid from Toronto who, through sheer talent and determination, made it big. While Scorsese's 1978 documentary on The Band's final concert The Last Waltz is celebrated for never showing the audience, Chu does the exact opposite and allows the "Beliebers" ample screentime. It works, and they show exactly why the Bieb is so popular. It's a prime slice of pop culture hysteria.
Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest
Director: Michael Rapaport
Michael Rapaport started as a mixtape-making DJ in Zebrahead (the motion picture whose soundtrack gave us Nas' first single). He also made the commercials for Outkast's Stankonia. So he's always had his red head poking up somewhere in rap music. Taking his fandom to a new level, he produced and directed Beats, Rhymes & Life, an outstanding documentary on A Tribe Called Quest. Full of passion, new information, rare clips and an unbiased look at the conflict between Phife and Q-Tip (fans are divided 50/50 on who came off worse) it works for fans old and new alike, as well as a snapshot of when Tribe ruled the world.
The Weird World of Blowfly
Director: Jonathan Furmanski
Lesser known is last year's stellar documentary on legendary soul artist Clarence Reid, aka party record extraordinaire Blowfly. He's widely credited with recording the first rap song, 1965's "Rapp Dirty," and this documentary follows his comeback trail and chronicles his incredible career. There's footage of him performing "Shitting off the Dock of the Bay" with Isaac Hayes. But it's not all laughs. The film also covers Reid's struggles after being forced to sell the rights to his life's work, losing millions of dollars in royalties from sampling and commercials. It's an eye-opening look at both the music industry and a maverick's attempt to find a second and third wind.