This is a story you've heard before: Inner-city kids falling to drugs/crime/pregnancy are saved by the power of music/dance/art. Don't let that premise (or the credited producers, Bruce Willis and Queen Latifah) dissuade you from checking out this documentary about a nonprofit hip-hop program in New York City founded by Chris "Kazi" Rolle, a quietly charismatic, formerly homeless teenager. The doc toggles between Kazi's personal story (he grew up on the streets of the Bahamas and remains mostly estranged from his mother), the inner workings of the Hip Hop Project, and the home lives of Kazi's protégés. From domestic strife to studio triumph, the most impressive accomplishment of the Project is not the student-made album, but that when Kazi says cheesy things like "This is healing through hip-hop," you actually believe him.
Kazi as the hip-hop mentor.
The Hip Hop Project
Opens at Uptown, Fri., May 11. Rated PG-13. 90 minutes.