Immerse yourself in LA’s underground hip-hop with the people who lived it


Where we’re from: the rise of underground hip-hop in LA (Shout! Studios)

Immerse yourself in LA’s underground hip-hop with the people who lived it: The premise of the documentary Where we come from is pretty straightforward – the LA hip-hop take that the bigger world was presenting at the time was that of gangsta rap. NWA and, later, Cube and Dre. The most wanted in Compton. Blue and red. That’s where the money was. But, as co-producers and directors DJ Bonds and DJ Breeze are keen to point out, there was so much more going on in the underground.

“The first time I really knew there was something more to LA besides NWA, Cube and kinda like the gangsta scene actually watched Rap Mania“Says DJ Bonds of Team Elements from the start of the film.” It was kinda crazy, because I got to see Divine Styler, Team Scheme, and Def Jef and the Souls. Brothers. Back then I wore Hammer pants, polka dots – that was just that time. And they were that different.

Elements was an underground club that operated from around 1998 to 2002, eventually finding a home in El Rey. Bonds and Breeze were the founders, and so they had a front row seat like the cream of LA, and American underground hip-hop caught on.

This is where this film succeeds. The story is told with love, despite the warts and everything, by people who lived it and breathed it. They suffered, economically and emotionally, when things weren’t so good, and celebrated together when they were. And now, looking back, they are well aware that they were part of something incredibly special.

Those of us who weren’t part of that scene but are now fascinated by it meet underground artists and various characters, and the stories are fantastic. Some are legendary, like the time Eminem got his ass handed over at the rap Olympics by fighting champion Otherwize. Likewise, A Tribe Called Quest’s Phife Dawg showed up to judge a battle and ended up in a battle (and lost).

We’re learning about the success of Unity club parties – how the majors wanted their acts on Unity bills alongside local talent because that was the scene to be at. We watch De La Soul run around to finish a festival set (Live at the BBQ 2000) before the sun goes down because there was no light on stage. And we hear about the Freestyle Fellowship, Jurassic 5, Planet Asia, Talib Kweli, Souls Of Mischief, The Beat Junkies, Medusa and Dilated Peoples.

The film ends on a positive note. Most of the artists involved in this wave of underground hip-hop didn’t get rich but they are rightly proud of what they have accomplished. They are talking about passing the torch to the next generation. Nothing is dead, nothing is gone. But certainly the late 90s / early 2000s was a special time.

Immerse yourself in LA’s underground hip-hop with the people who lived it: Where we’re from: the rise of underground hip-hop in LA is available for rent on Amazon Prime now.


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