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Founded in 1999, the Hip Hop Project gives poor teens in New York City a chance to write and record their own music, which is issued on fund-raising compilation CDs. Founder Chris “Kharma Kazi” Rolle insisted that his students drop the gangsta posturing in favor of serious poetry about their lives, and the more interesting scenes in this documentary by Matt Ruskin show Rolle pushing his kids in a format similar to a creative writing workshop. The movie was produced by the same nonprofit organization that funds the project, which makes for a certain amount of enforced uplift, and detours into the personal lives of Rolle and three students are sketchy or contrived. But in a nation that's stripped arts instruction from the public schools, the Hip Hop Project seems like a godsend. PG-13, 88 min.

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