A fascinating and hilarious true story of two Scottish rappers who pretended to be American to pursue their dream to be the next big thing. Jeanie Finlay directs, documenting through interviews and shaky archive footage shot by the lads themselves. Back before the UK hip hop scene had taken off with the likes of Plan B, Dizzee Rascal and Wiley, Gavin McBain and Billy Boyd met at Dundee University and instantly formed a connection, however there was no room for Scottish hip hop – it wasn’t marketable. After a disastrous 2002 audition in London where they were stereotypically branded ‘the rapping Proclaimers’, they thought they had blown the big chance for a breakthrough into the industry. Months later, ‘for a laugh’, Boyd put on an American accent when trying to secure a gig claiming to be over from California to promote an EP and to his amazement, it worked. From then on, they were no longer Bill and Gav from Arbroath. They were Silibil n’ Brains from LA. ‘The Great Hip Hop Hoax’ takes us on their unique journey through the dizzy heights of Sony record deals and appearing on MTV, to the inevitable combustion, and carries it off with style, humour and most importantly honesty, creating an intriguing watch that has you questioning how on earth they pulled it off.
What makes this piece so interesting is the lie that holds it all together, and this is what drew Jeanie Finlay to the project. To completely assume new identities for what was a number of years is astounding to the point that most guys lost sight of who they were and why they were doing it. The talking head segments from Billy’s fiancée, friends and the music moguls who were taken in by their creation are really key in shedding light on how dedicated they both were, never breaking character and even avoiding phonecalls from parents to maintain the new facades. The well developed new characters are also given wacky cartoon personas, the cleverly made zany animation offering a different aspect to the film. There is a great sense of authenticity running through the whole production, Billy and Gavin telling it how it was, ahead of the release of their new EP ‘Eat Your Brains’ which is available to download now on iTunes.
After the screening, I had the pleasure of attending a Q&A session and after party with the director, Billy and Gavin, and it was staggering to see how driven they both still are. Perhaps Gavin more so than Billy as he has now settled down and had a couple of kids. Whilst performing at the after party, Silibil n’ Brains were as captivating as ever, now openly Scottish and proud but keeping up the Beastie Boys attitude and accents, spitting comedic lines to extremely catchy beats. Maybe they haven’t achieved what they set out to originally, but they are treated with respect now in the industry they longed to be a part of, having a lot of fun at the same time and ‘The Great Hip Hop Hoax’ documentary is a worthy account of the brilliant story.