Rhymecology: Write Better Rhymes explores the power of poetry and using “hip-hop to heal.” Jeff “Jay” Walker loves hip-hop and the art of the rhyme. As a mental health professional, it only made sense for him to combine passion and profession into a hip-hop blend of self-help known as Rhymecology. Writer/director Sean Reid catalogs Walker’s journey from local slam poet to reaching youth one rhyme at a time.
Focusing on highlights like Walker’s work with the Black Eyed Peas and sportscaster Pat O’Brien, the film focuses on the rapper using his talents to better his community. Featuring moving performances and deep analysis of word choices and structure, the documentary dissects the life of Walker using his own words and rhymes. In addition, interviews with Grammy-nominated Sekou Andrews and singer/songwriter Gilli Moon help give proper context to how groundbreaking Jay Walker’s style truly is.
In a film centered around spoken word, slam poetry, and hip-hop expecting great rhymes is natural. Well, luckily, Rhymecology: Write Better Rhymes delivers. Even the interviews have some great rhyme analysis and freestyle verses. Reid does an excellent job of allowing the poets to let their words flow through the screen and bring you into the world of hip-hop. The performances, especially from Sekou Andrews, always kept me engaged and, Walker’s passion for wordsmithing is beyond impressive.
“…combine passion and profession into a hip-hop blend of self-help…”
The film feels very Gen X in all the best ways. From the rappers name-checked to the framing of each shot, the film feels like a lost 1990s documentary. These choices are consistent throughout the picture due to the inspiration hip-hop had on the poets and artists featured. I walked away loving the Gen X aesthetics set to a contemporary story of poetry and mental health very much.
The blend of hip-hop and mental health on display makes Rhymecology: Write Better Rhymes engaging early on, as listening to fierce rhymes of struggle and vulnerability is captivating. However, the film could use some restructuring. At times stories about Walker’s career in broadcasting, his relationship with his wife, and Rhymecology as a brand get a little scrambled. Clocking in at an hour, I found myself wanting more. This is a double-edged sword as I liked it enough to want more but was left wanting more on how Rhymecology is helping others.
Regardless of the production’s shortcomings, Reid imbues every frame with a passion for Jay’s words and a Gen X vibe. The film is an inciting watch that gives gravitas to each syllable in the most poignant bars and dopest verses.
"…listening to fierce rhymes of struggle and vulnerability is captivating."