Hip hop heroes – ‘Stretch and Bobbito: Radio That Changed Lives’

❉ A film about two quirky friends who became unlikely hip hop legends by shaping the genre and breaking the biggest rap artists ever.

‘Hip Hop is the consciousness of oppressed people.’ – KRS-One

I have a really cool dad. A dad with the stereotypical street cred, a dad who doesn’t say he’s ‘Down with the kids,’ – ‘cos he knows he is. I was about nine when my dad put Ready or Not by The Fugees on in the car. Being nine, I had no idea what I was listening to was Hip-Hop. All I knew is that I wanted more of it. I stole my Dad’s CD of ‘The Score’ and never returned it (Sorry, Dad). I have it in my home from home, along with ‘Illmatic’, ‘Ready to Die’ and ‘Black On Both Sides’. It’s that easy to become what they call a “Hip-Hop Head”, though I feel my title should be taken from me. It’s no wonder these guys are fondly referred to by the artists they gave airtime to as ‘Presidential candidates of rap.’

Stretch And Bobbito and their East Coast College radio show led the way and acted as a springboard for the titans of ’90s Hip-Hop.

‘Stretch and Bobbito: Radio That Changed Lives’ was an educational experience for me, as well as an absolute adrenaline rush for any Hip-Hop fan. Little did I know, these two guys and their East Coast College radio show led the way and acted as a springboard for the titans of ’90s Hip-Hop. They shaped the genre, embraced the culture and created a community of cult listeners. Written and directed by Bobbito Garcia, produced by Omar Acosta with the obvious choice of music supervision from DJ Stretch Armstrong himself, together they present a triple threat to music documentary film.

This excellent insight into College radio and Hip-Hop of the 90s serves as a who’s who of Hip-Hop and the whole East Coast Scene. If Rap is your bread and butter, prepare to absolutely delight at an Aladdin’s cave of Freestyles, presented to you in raw, grainy footage of Busta Rhymes, Nas and Wu-Tang Clan to name some, from the WKCR Station, located on Columbia University Campus.

Stretch (Adrian Bartos) and Bobbito (Bobby Garcia) recall meeting at Def Jam, where Bobbito was working amongst Russell Simmons in A&R and Stretch was looking for promos as a club DJ. Striking up a firm friendship and mutual love of the New York Hip-Hop scene, this friendship soon gained traction when Stretch proposed the idea of a radio show. He had planned to attend Columbia University in the fall of 1990 and approached the college radio station WKCR, pitching a Hip-Hop show over the Summer. He expressed to Bobbito that he would be the ‘Silent DJ,’ and Garcia would be the host. The show premiered on October 25th of that year. This was the start of how two unlikely, eccentric newcomers became gatekeepers of the 90’s rap scene.

There’s insight from women in the industry explaining how they were looked after and in regards to misogyny in the rap scene in the 90’s, ‘What the culture offered outweighed the bad.’

I could spend this whole review name-dropping and it would exceed the word count. You are spoilt for choice from video and audio footage of ‘off the top of the head freestyle,’ segment of the show from now-giants, a young Busta Rhymes, Fat Joe and the Brooklyn legend, Notorious B.I.G, aged sixteen.

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Stretch and Bobbito’s admiration from the community and visitors to their show is a constant throughout. It honestly depicts the ups and downs of their friendship, including a hiatus they had where they decided to part ways, only to pick up where they left off years later. It’s a family affair, the duo’s parents fondly praising their sons impact on a community, on troops serving away from home, being transported back to their ‘Harlem kitchen,’ through tapes of the show. There’s insight from women in the industry exclaiming how they were looked after and in regards to misogyny in the rap scene in the 90’s, ‘What the culture offered outweighed the bad.’

The artists featured on the show’s now record sales exceed 300 million, all started from stepping through Stretch and Bobbito’s doors. Stretch comments that the show was ‘Establishing a blueprint for the best kind of hip-hop, and it still stands.’ With figures like that, who are we to argue?

The film shows footage of a young Stretch and Bobbito amongst rap royalty before they transitioned, the offbeat jokes and pure excitement that exudes them as they realise where they are and what they’re doing, is infectious to watch. You come away from the documentary wanting to hang out with these guys. And maybe pick up a turntable.

In a nutshell, this documentary is a must-see for fans of the genre. It might even convert some.

Stretch and Bobbito’s lives presented in past and present film could be a rap song. It’s the college radio’s answer to a ‘rags to riches,’ formula of a Hip-Hop Anthem. The triumphant vibes of dreams into reality. Stretch and Bobbito: Radio That Changed Lives is documentary film’s answer to Notorious B.I.G’s ‘Juicy.’ Go see it.


❉ ‘Stretch and Bobbito: Radio That Changed Lives’ made its DVD debut as an HMV exclusive on 14 October 2016 and will be on general release as a DVD and digital download on 24 October 2016.

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