By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., Chicago Crusader
“Love Beats Rhymes” is a film that explores the relationship between hip hop and poetry, with a cast of great musicians that includes Azealia Banks, Jill Scott and Common. When struggling rapper Coco (Banks) enrolls in a poetry class, she thinks her rhymes will impress her teacher, Professor Dixon (Scott). Instead, Dixon challenges Coco to seek real meaning in her lyrics, setting her on a journey of discovery that takes her through rap clubs and poetry slams, leading her to find her true voice — and true love — in this uplifting movie that also co-stars Lucien Laviscount as Derek Morris, Lorraine Toussaint as Coco’s mother, Nichele, and Method Man.
Coco has it bad, because her mother is on her to finish college, while she also works in the family’s soul food joint, as well as raps on the side with her group. Coco, of course, has her sights set on an upcoming hip hop contest that she hopes will put her on the map. On the other hand, her mother has issued an ultimatum that she must return to college, since she has been off for a year already. In a way that would seem to appease both her mother and herself, Coca enrolls in what she thinks will be an easy poetry class. However, Dixon has her own agenda, while trying to break down all that Coco believes about the rap community. “Rap ain’t poetry,” Dixon keeps pounding into Coco’s head. And Coco keeps presenting rap for her assignments, instead of digging a bit deeper to let her poetic juices flow.
While “Love Beats Rhymes” may at first appear to be predictable, there are a few surprises. Banks is good as Coco; Common, of course, is deliciously appealing as Dixon’s husband. Common, whose name is Coltrane, also leads a weekly poetry slam, and these events are full of electricity. Coco—after much friction between herself and Dixon and a love affair with the Teaching Assistant named Derek—FINALLY hits the marks. She triumphs in her struggles with Dixon, who has to be the meanest professor in college history. And she finds true love on her own terms.
“Love Beats Rhymes” is an appropriate title for a film, which is directed by RZA, which proves that sometimes music has to take a back seat to romance—even though in the end, they both prevail. The film is available on DVD and download through popular online video sources.