After the release of the long awaited documentary ‘Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest‘, we thought of ten other noteworthy hip hop docu’s. Check out our list below and click the titles to stream most of the full documentaries.
10. Rhyme & Reason
Shot in 1997, this documentary features interviews with around eighty hip hop artists on topics like violence, race and freestyling. It also covers the history of hip hop but don’t expect to hear anything groundbreaking. The director of Rhyme & Reason tracked down great MCs like Method Man, Fatlip, Redman, Nas and Guru. On the downside, the movie also has its fair share of second rate clowns like Da Bratt and Kriss Kross, for that reason it sticks to number 10.
Recent documentary featuring Psycho Les, Casanova Rud, TR Love and Minnesota. They get 40 bucks each to go diggin’ for crates. Casanova comes across as a loud mouth with a lot of stories from the good old days. TR Love is still passionate about vinyl and he misses the golden age of sampling. Minnesota seems to be a serious man who knows what he’s doing while Psycho Les drinks some beers while diggin. Strange though that the documentary doesn’t feature any actual beatmaking since they had to use the music they bought to make a beat… Something that Dublab’s Secondhand Sureshots did in a better way, for example.
8. The Carter
No matter what you think of Lil Wayne, he is kinda interesting in this documentary. A lot of the time he is the full-proof idiot you always expected him to be: drinking syrup, getting wasted and talking bullshit. But he also works tirelessly and somehow has the talent to create a good song once in a while. Safe to say, dude lives in his own world.
The filmmaker Ava DuVernay (aka MC Eve from Figures of Speech) made a great documentary about the predecessor of the Project Blowed movement. It shows how a health- food cafe became a place where experimental lyricism thrived. Most famous Good Life MCs are Freestyle Fellowship, Abstract Rude and Jurassic 5, but underground legends like Ellay Khule, Volume 10 and C.V.E. also get the attention they deserve.
Cool documentary about the state of hip hop during the late nineties. It’s about famous battles and battle MCs like JUICE, Supernatural and Craig G. The focus on Supernat gets a bit tiresome but stuff like this is still worth watching. The documentary features many underground MCs from Project Blowed and The Lyricist Lounge but also hip hop originators like the The Last Poets and Crazy Legs.
The world’s most famous turntablists are put in the spotlight in this documentary from 2001. The turntable as an instrument, that’s what it is all about. Fun to watch, but one gets the impression that it takes a certain kind of freak to become involved in turntablism. A whole lot of interviews with key-players like Q-Bert, DJ Babu and Mix Master Mike but also some of the best crews demonstrating their skills.
The first one is a must see but it goes from bad to worse from there. The second part is still watchable but when they start about a Chingy & Nelly battle in part three you know it’s going downhill fast… Part 4 hits the bottom. Who is the queen of the south? There’s only one correct answer to such a question: who the fuck cares.
3. Style Wars
A documentary from 1983 which was a surprising good year for hip hop on the big screen, just think about Wild Style which saw the light of day in the same year. Style Wars is the first hip hop documentary, allthough it’s not primarly about rap, the main subject here is graffiti. This documentary breathes hip hop and it offers a fascinating portrait of New York in the early eighties. More importantly, it features some of the great graff writers from that era.
Fantastic documentary about concert promotor Chang Weisberg trying to get all Wu Tang Clan members on stage for the first time in years. It’s like watching a fucking thriller, is Ol’ Dirty Bastard going to make it to the stage or what? You know it’s gonna be difficult when one of the guys says ODB is in a hotel room with six crackrocks and some girls… Highly recommended.
Dope documentary about a block party organised by Dave Chappelle. He attempts to reunite the Fugees for the first time in 7 years. Some of the other artists involved are Talib Kweli, Common, Mos Def, Big Daddy Kane and The Roots. Dave Chapelle visits the location in Brooklyn, hands out free tickets in his hometown and rehearses for the blockparty. No matter what he does, he’s funny. This is a feel good movie with a perfect mix of comedy and music.
Words & Selection by: Johan