Start with hard work a grueling arduous schedule and an industry already famous for fast living. Throw in lots of money and starstruck scantily dressed fans willing to do anything for a few moments with the men of their dreams and ... well you know. But there's more to "Backstage" than cognac bottles green leafy substances and female anatomy. Rappers eat sleep play fight discuss their inner struggles and admit to being moved to tears by "Good Will Hunting." Just don't expect the story of the girl who broke up the band -- the rivalries and conflicts are mostly low-key and a friendly paintball game supplies the only gunplay.
As major players in an image-conscious business the rappers and hip-hop impresarios profiled here do their fair share of posturing; at other times the conversations seem remarkably candid and revealing. Highlights include interviews with Jay-Z Beanie Sigel and DMX with some comic relief as hip-hop wannabes try to impress the touring rappers. Also noteworthy is the film's focus on music magnate Damon Dash and his high-decibel insights into management philosophy intellectual property and brand identity. (He is the producer after all.)
Documentary and music video director Chris Fiore chose to let the subjects of "Backstage" tell the story in their own words. Unlike many of his contemporaries he helped them out by editing miles of celluloid and tape into a well-structured comprehensible narrative. The film starts out loud and fast and keeps up the pace despite a detour into sex and drugs that lasts just a bit too long. Missing for the most part is the view from across the yawning gender gap -- little is heard from female hip-hop artist Amil despite her prominent billing in the credits.