Stretch and Bobbito – Radio that Changed Lives
Earlier this year, a Kickstarter campaign was launched to make a film about alternative radio duo Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Garcia. The campaign raised over $65,000 USD and the resulting movie has recently been given its European premiere at the BFI London Film Festival 2015. This feature-length documentary has been directed, written and co-produced by Bobbito himself, with the full collaboration of Stretch.
The double-act is famous for starting up a college radio show dedicated to hip-hop. The show continued to grow beyond their college years, providing a platform for various unsigned artists who have since shot to fame, including Nas, Jay-Z, Eminem and The Fugees. The programme had a cult following in the music world and even amid the prison population, as people were won over by their irreverent style, quirky humour and dedication to finding new talent.
The documentary consists mostly of Bobbito and Stretch interviewing their colleagues and the artists they broadcast, cleverly allowing other people to tell their story. We are shown video clips from the shows, interlaced with some evocative specially-commissioned shots of recording gear, memorabilia and graffiti. The atmosphere communicated is one of collaboration and friendship; the studio is constantly shown crowded with people, usually laughing together. Bobbito tells us in an voiceover “we were being broadcast into your homes, but really you were coming into our world”.
An underlying discussion of racial politics and expression runs through the Stretch and Bobbito. As a “skinny white guy”, Stretch Armstrong stood out in the hip-hop community, but as a DJ he was able to provide a platform for black voices on the show. The issues surrounding hip-hop and the era are complex, but the documentary looks at them revealingly and respectfully. It also gives voice to the more misogynistic aspects of hip-hop culture and interviews several women associated with the radio show.
Stretch and Bobbito: Radio that Changed Lives gives an evocative insight into a particular era of music making, and the atmosphere and politics surrounding it. It does assume a knowledge of hip-hop and its artists, which could confuse the uninitiated, but then this film was made with the knowledge that it would be shown first and foremost to fans of the show. At times, it feels a little like a vanity project (it opens with biographical details of the duo, interviews with their “proud” parents and words of praise from famous members of the hip-hop community), but as the film goes on, it shakes this off and delves deeply into the culture of early 90s New York, revealing a fascinating back-story that touches on the history of many stars today.
Stretch and Bobbito: Radio that Changed Lives does not have a UK release date yet.
Watch the trailer for Stretch and Bobbito: Radio that Changed Lives here: