Fly By Night

Rappers in movies are doing fine – Ice Cube (Boyz n the Hood), Ice-T (New Jack City), Tupac Shakur (Above the Rim). Movies about rap are another story – remember CB4? At the Sundance Festival, where Fly by Night inexplicably won the Filmmaker's Trophy, some audiences expressed indignation that the film's director, Steve Gomer, and screenwriter, Todd Graff, were white. Fly has enough problems without bringing up race. It's an unnervingly slick package.

The band's scratch master, Kool Kayam (Darryl "Chill" Mitchell), listens while his cousin Rich (Jeffrey D. Sams) fights with "I" (Rich Brice) to define the band's sound. Rich raps soft, "I" raps angry. And so a complex issue is reduced to an either-or TV-movie cliché – solution guaranteed before the last commercial.

Graff, who co-stars as a brutal junkie, acts better than he writes. His script for Fly belongs to the same genre as his scripts for Used People and Angie: soap opera. The talented cast, including female rapper MC Lyte as Rich's long-suffering wife, are helpless against the tide of bubbles. The actors and the subject deserved better.

From The Archives Issue 681: May 5, 1994