The Great Hip Hop Hoax (2 stars)

The Great Hip Hop Hoax

Bittersweet doc focusing on two Scottish chancers in the rap game

Not quite the grand affair the title suggests, Jeanie Finlay’s documentary is a mixture of found footage that tells an intriguingly obscure story about deliberately mistaken identity. Featuring two young Scots who passed themselves off to music industry insiders as cool Californian rappers circa 2004, it’s a bittersweet reflection on the dangers of stardom.

Peppered with bright animation, Finlay’s film quickly establishes a miserable Scottish cultural wasteland from which Billy Boyd and Gavin Bain emerge. A trip to London for an audition leaves them with nothing but a lack of faith in how their Scottish accents were received by the judges. Re-inventing themselves as Silibil N' Brains, and featuring broad Californian accents, Boyd and Bain were touted alongside the likes of Muse before the pressure of maintaining character caused their friendship to burn out.

Although the unfamiliar quality of the story gives The Great Hip Hop Hoax some narrative drive, it also diminishes the stakes; the most significant figure who bought into the con is no less august a figure than James Bourne from Busted, which hardly makes this deception the musical crime of the century. Neither Bain nor Boyd are shown in a particularly sympathetic light, and a clip from a video diary in which one band-member urinates into another’s cupped hands sets a tone as crude as the quality of the video-clips.

From Chung Ling Soo to Milli Vanilli, many entertainers have been revealed as imposters, and The Great Hip Hop Hoax is interesting while the deception is in play. But killer footage never emerges, just guys goofing off; unlike the hard-working rock-band depicted in Anvil, whose belatedly found fame through their own doc, Silibil N' Brains are revealed here as nothing more than cheeky blaggers who took a blag too far.

Screening at Odeon Wester Hailes, Fri 28 Jun as part of Edinburgh International Film Festival 2013. Selected release from Fri 6 Sep.

SXSW (2013) - The Great Hip Hop Hoax Trailer #1 - Documentary HD

The Great Hip Hop Hoax

  • 2 stars
  • 2013
  • UK
  • 1h 33min
  • 18
  • Directed by: Jeanie Finlay
  • UK release: 6 September 2013

Documentary about 'Californian rappers' Silibil 'n' Brains, actually two Scottish students with fake accents and false identities.


1. Manny12 Aug 2013, 9:33am Report

I wish to point out Chris Rock founder of Island Records was taken in by Silibill and Brains. He introduced the world to the likes of Bob Marley a more noteworthy mention than James from Busted. As an aside his mother was the lover of Sir Ian Fleming (Author of the Bond series).

Additionally Jonathan Shallit the guy who signed the guys managed Charlotte, Church, N-Dubz and Jamelia.

Whilst you should be commended for blogging on this film and your views are as a valid as the next persons; I find the lack of research into the scale of the 'blag' pulled off by these two undermined by it

2. Niki at The List16 Aug 2013, 3:49pm

Hi Manny,

Thanks for your comments. We fear you may be getting your Chrisses mixed up though: Chris Blackwell was the founder of Island Records, forger of Bob Marley's career and son of Ian Fleming's supposed paramour; while Island Records producer Chris Rock (the one roped in by Bain and Boyd) appears to have done very little of note (although his similarity-in-name to a certain US comedian does make this ruddy difficult to verify via Google).

Your point about Jonathan Shallit having more significance in the industry is a good one, although it could be argued that James Bourne's celebrity status makes him a more significant figure for audiences less well acquainted with industry insiders.

Hopefully that answers any queries you have with the review; if you have any more though, let us know. Thanks again!

3. Rob Klank24 Oct 2013, 2:59am Report

Sorry, but I also have to disagree with your statement (and I quote) " the most significant figure who bought into the con is no less august a figure than James Bourne from Busted, which hardly makes this deception the musical crime of the century."
They were on MTV's TRL show as an American band! MTV! They were also signed by a little know record label by the name of ... Sony Records.

I therefore find your attempt to undermine the outlandish nature of this entire story a little petty.

PS - getting a support slot with D12 was based on their scam, as was chatting to Green Day at the Brits. Etc......

4. PIG TOWN24 Oct 2013, 10:01am Report

Regardless of the 'supposed' mega scam this was a pretty weak documentary. How it was stretched over an hour is beyond me. The animations did some serious padding out where footage was missing but I wouldn't recommend this to anyone.

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