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Sunday, May 05, 2013

Sean Kelly

Hot Docs 2013: My Thoughts on The Great Hip-Hop Hoax

The_Great_Hip_Hop_Hoax

The music industry is no stranger to hoaxes.  In fact, the story of the Milli Vanilli, the pretty-boy duo of the late 1980s, who were exposed as lip-syncers, probably remains the most infamous hoax of music history.  However, compared to Silibil n’ Brains, the main subjects of Jeanie Finlay’s documentary The Great Hip-Hop Hoax, Milli Vanilli’s antics were child’s play.

The film focuses on Gavin Bain and Billy Boyd, two friends from Dundee, Scotland, who got together to form a hip-hop group named “B Production.”  One day, they headed down to London for an audition, but they just ended up being laughed at by the A&Rs, who called them “The Rapping Proclaimers.”  After further rejection, due to their Scottish heritage, they decided as a lark to put on American accents and pretend they were a rap duo from California, named Silibil (Billy) and Brains McCloud (Gavin).  To their surprise, they started getting notice and “Silibil n’ Brains” were on their way to getting a record deal.

Animated Silibil n' Brains

The story of Silibil n’ Brains’ rise to fame is quite humorously told through a series of animated re-enactments, done by British artist Jon Burgerman.  It is quite amazing to see how deep into the music industry Gavin and Billy got under their fake personas.  The film describes many moments when they came dangerously close to being exposed, but they managed to talk themselves out of the situation.  Since Gavin and Billy had to remain in the characters of Silibil n’ Brains 24/7, they almost began to forget who they really were.

The Great Hip-Hop Hoax also works somewhat in exposing how the music industry cares nothing about talent and more about marketability.  Gavin and Billy were essentially performing the same material as Silibil n’ Brains, as they were as B Production.  However, the only difference is that it is easier for record labels to market a couple of California rappers, who exhibited extreme hip-hip stereotypes, than a pair of Scottish rappers, who cannot be viewed as anything but Scottish.  There is a great bit of irony in the film when, the head of the band’s management, Jonathan Shalit specifically says that “they did not get a record deal because they pretended to be American, they got a record deal because they had talent.”  All I have to ask is where was this guy when the duo was being laughed at and called “The Rapping Proclaimers?”

Amazingly Silibil n’ Brains did not come to an end because they were exposed, but more because they were buried in the Sony BMG merger and subsequently fell out with each other.  After a huge fight between the two, Billy returned to his hometown of Arbroath, to start a family with his wife, while Gavin stayed in London to develop his music career, which included publicly ending the Brains McCloud character.  Even though Gavin and Billy haven’t been together in five years, they are seen freestyling over the end credits and they have apparently recently gotten back together to record new material to coincide with the film’s release.

Overall, I thought that The Great Hip-Hop Hoax was a very fun film and I am quite amazed that this duo managed to get away with their ruse for as long as they did.

8 | LIKED IT

Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described ├╝ber-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).