The current hiphop underground has three founding centers: New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. The most fertile, and yet least recognized, of the big three is Los Angeles. For many hiphop headz in the 1990s, the underground only meant L.A., and so it was at once the capital of the most commercial hiphop (gangsta rap) and the most communistic rap (the underground). And the latter was not just a reaction to the former, but the expression of a real need to be creative. (Often we think about creativity or innovation as something that’s extraordinary, exceptional, and rare—when in actual fact, it is at the center of our humanity. We must be experimental, innovative, and original because it is in our nature to be creative.)

This Is the Life is a documentary that attempts to expose the epicenter of L.A.’s profound break from the mainstream—a small vegan joint called Good Life Health Food Cafe. Here, the health of the body was linked to the health of the hiphop mind. Good food mixed with good rhymes. It was an island of hope (no cursing, no biting, no disrespecting women, no meat) in the middle of the gangsta capital of the world, South Central Los Angeles. Some of the artists “who where there” (to use the words of Just Ice) are now well-known (Chali2na, Cut Chemist, Abstract Rude), but most are not (Riddlore, Ellay Khule, T-Love). Most never got a record deal, most were only known by the small circle of artists who met every Thursday at the cafe, all (famous and not) were faithful to the last great cultural revolution to explode from the depths of the black American experience. recommended