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Love Beats Rhymes Review

Love Beats Rhymes is a 2017 musical drama about a struggling rapper who enrolls in a poetry class, thinks her rhymes will impress her teacher.

There’s no taking away the impressive power of a well-written and delivered rap, the genre providing a much-needed voice that has had monumental influence on more than a few generations since it’s start. However, movies about rap and rappers have been far and few between with most loose cash grabs that have little significance. Eminem‘s 8 Mile changed much about that, with rap only the lining of a complex character-driven drama, dispelling that notion that a rap movie could only work as an extended music video. Now comes RZA‘s Love Beats Rhymes, an ambitious project that has no lack of great talent, but doesn’t do much to move the genre forward, even if it does more than expected.

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Kicking off just about where 8 Mile left off, we meet Coco (Azealia Banks), a brash, highly-skilled rapper in the middle of a rap battle, a capacity crowd jumping at her lyrical cutdowns that leave her the winner. She’s all style, attitude and smarts, and looks to have just what it takes to absolutely skyrocket to fame. She and her crew are ready for a record deal, but she’s also just a few credits shy of getting her degree and her mom pressures to get back to school. A friend (Hana Mae Lee) hints that Poetry 101 is an easy A and so she signs up, thinking the rapping gives her an edge straight away. However, her professor, Nefari Dixon (Jill Scott), isn’t much of a fan of rap and its larger misogynist, uninspired overtones, nor is her good looking assistant Derek (Lucien Laviscount), though it’s not long before Derek and Coco fire up some sparks of their own as she discovers what real poetry is, embracing it with renewed passion.

You have to give RZA and screenwriter Nicole Asher credit for giving as much space to poetry as it does rap, if not more, not so much comparing but delineating what makes each so unique. To be honest, I haven’t seen a movie use it quite so well since Mike Myers‘ 1993 comedy So I Married An Axe Murderer. Still, it takes a singular path going there, following a fairly predictable line, setting up and knocking down all the has been standards, never much straying from a tried and true template. Fortunately, it does it well, knowing exactly what it’s doing and the combination keep this, at the very least, very entertaining. 

That’s mostly due to Banks, who, despite the seemingly endless controversy she wallows in, is a real standout, keeping Coco a very convincing character, even if she’s bound by the limitations of the film’s rigid plotting. She is as much at home stringing together twisted rap rhymes as she is on stage at a poetry slam. She and Laviscount have great chemistry and that really helps a lot in keeping this a step above where it feels like it should be.

Love Beats Rhymes is from start to finish a fable wrapped inside a fairy tale, with every word and action agents of a very familiar potion that we’ve all swallowed countless times before. It doesn’t take any risks, playing it safe throughout, but that’s not to say we don’t need movies like this. We probably do. It’s great to see a young, powerful black woman at the center, and while many might get tripped up on the obvious journey, it’s nonetheless worth a look if simply to get a little more appreciation for the wonder of poetry.

Love Beats Rhymes Review

Movie description: Love Beats Rhymes is a 2017 musical drama about a struggling rapper who enrolls in a poetry class, thinks her rhymes will impress her teacher.

Director(s): RZA

Actor(s): Azealia Banks, Common, Hana Mae Lee, Method Man

Genre: Drama

  • Our Score
User Rating 5 (1 vote)
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