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‘This Is the Life’ Review: A Valuable Part of Hip-Hop History

February 23, 2021
February 23, 2021

Ava DuVernay’s 2008 debut feature, the documentary “This Is the Life,” is a refreshing portrait of a 1990s California hip-hop subculture that thrived separately from gangsta rap. DuVernay’s documentary, now available to stream on Netflix, is a personal project. She performed as part of the rap duo Figures of Speech at the Good Life Cafe — a South Central Los Angeles health food cafe that became a mecca for the underground rap community.

Throughout the ’90s, the modest space’s open-mic nights fostered a bevy of young, raw, untainted lyrical voices telling stories of everyday life in L.A. DuVernay combines performer interviews with VHS footage and audio clips of their shows to retell a magical period in the hip-hop scene.

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