Hip-hop has reworked music, and the world at massive, because it was conceived 50 years in the past. In a comparatively quick time, it is made an enormous affect on each side of popular culture — and happily, there are quite a lot of nice documentaries that chronicle the unforgettable, twists, turns, and triumphs that made hip-hop what it’s right now.

Many of those documentaries supply fascinating insights into hip-hop’s exponential development, comparable to 1995’s “The Show” and 2016’s “Hip-Hop Evolution,” which each look at precisely how the style grew to become a worldwide, multibillion-dollar trade. A few of them additionally deal with particular person artists, like 2003’s “Tupac: Resurrection,” a documentary narrated totally by Tupac Shakur himself. Others deal with particular music scenes, like Ava DuVernay’s “This Is the Life,” which facilities Los Angeles’s different rap scene within the Nineties, whereas others delve into the technical facets of hip-hop and rap, like Ice-T’s “Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap.”

Few and much between are documentaries that heart on ladies in hip-hop, although DuVernay’s “My Mic Sounds Nice: A Truth About Women and Hip-Hop” does a complete job at telling ladies’s tales. Netflix additionally launched a documentary about ladies in hip-hop referred to as “Ladies First,” which premiered on Aug. 9. That includes interviews with feminine hip-hop icons like Queen Latifah, MC Sha-Rock, MC Lyte, Da Brat, and Monie Love, Rah Digga, Latto, and Saweetie, it is poised to hopefully add extra scope to that dialog.

In the end, every of those documentaries is an eye-opening time capsule and a window into hip-hop’s origins and enduring energy. Forward, try a number of the finest hip-hop documentaries on the market.

Greatest Documentaries In regards to the Historical past of Hip-Hop

“Style Wars”

Launched in 1983, “Style Wars” — referred to as the “defining documentary of early hip-hop culture” by Pitchfork in 2020 — follows hip-hop from its earliest years to its development within the Nineteen Seventies and ’80s. Graffiti is its main focus, but it surely additionally delves into b-boying and rapping. Moreover, it contains quite a lot of graffiti writers’ views on the artwork type and on New York Metropolis’s then-mayor, Ed Koch, amongst different subjects. In the end, it makes a case for graffiti as an artwork type, and in addition serves as a visible and sonic chronicle of hip-hop’s rise throughout mediums.

Watch “Style Wars” on Amazon Prime Video.

“Big Fun in the Big Town”

Getty | Simon King

This two-part 1986 documentary follows a Belgian TV presenter named Marcel Vanthilt as he travels to New York to find out about hip-hop and Iggy Pop and the Stooges — although the hip-hop section has undoubtedly withstood the take a look at of time much better than the Iggy Pop part. Throughout his eight days in New York, Vanthilt learns about how rap supplied elementary schoolers with a cathartic outlet, and he interviews stars like a younger LL Cool J in addition to early pioneers like Grandmaster Flash, Biz Markie, MC Shan, Mr. Magic, Schoolly D, and The Final Poets. It is an irreplaceable doc that chronicles a important second in time for hip-hop.

“This Is the Life”

“This Is the Life” is a documentary by acclaimed filmmaker DuVernay. Launched in 2008, it explores Los Angeles’s different hip-hop motion, which rose to prominence within the Nineties and circled across the metropolis’s Good Life Cafe. It options interviews with many outstanding members of the scene — and it is made all of the extra true-to-life by the truth that DuVernay was an emcee herself on the time, performing with the group Figures of Speech.

Watch “This Is the Life” on Netflix.


Peter Spirer’s “Beef” explores the historical past of feuds throughout hip-hop, specializing in the aggressive spirit that has been a side of the tradition since its early days — which might typically evolve into real dangerous blood. Specializing in fallouts between 50 Cent and Homicide Inc Data, JAY-Z and Nas, Tupac and The Infamous B.I.G., and lots of extra, it options interviews with main hip-hop stars in addition to performances that may solely be seen within the movie.

“Rhyme & Reason”

rhyme and reason, (aka rhyme & reason), nas (left), 1997. miramax/courtesy everett collection
Everett Assortment

Directed by “Beef”‘s Spirer, “Rhyme & Reason” interrogates hip-hop’s recognition and explores how the tradition exploded right into a multi-billion-dollar trade. That includes interviews with over 80 artists together with Ice-T, Dr. Dre, Wu-Tang Clan, Tupac, and The Infamous B.I.G., it is a priceless artifact and an encapsulation of hip-hop’s ascendancy, straight from the artists who made it into a worldwide phenomenon.

Watch “Rhyme and Reason” on Apple TV+.

“Hip-Hop Evolution”

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Hosted by emcee and journalist Shad Kabango, this 2016 docuseries begins out by exploring hip-hop’s origins, starting with pioneering legends like Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash. From there, it chronicles the events, performances, and legendary artists who made hip-hop bigger than life. Throughout 4 seasons, it traces hip-hop from its inception to the current day, and later seasons distinction the East Coast and West Coast hip-hop scenes, hint the rise of Southern rap, and extra.

Watch “Hip-Hop Evolution” on Netflix.

“My Mic Sounds Nice: A Truth About Women And Hip-Hop”

Additionally directed by DuVernay, this 2010 documentary takes a take a look at ladies’s experiences in hip-hop from the Nineteen Eighties to the 2010s. Specializing in the rise of the tradition’s main feminine stars, it options interviews with Trina, Salt-N-Pepa, Lil’ Mama, Roxanne Shanté, Missy Elliott, and extra. It explores themes like misogyny and sexualization and in addition contains some male stars like Questlove and Swizz Beatz, who supply their ideas on why feminine hip-hop stars are up to now outnumbered by males.

Greatest Documentaries About Particular person Hip-Hop Artists

“Nas: Time Is Illmatic”

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This 2010 documentary traces the creation of Nas’s 1994 debut LP, “Illmatic.” It options interviews with Nas in addition to his members of the family and collaborators, and premiered on the twentieth anniversary of the album’s launch. Chronicling Nas’s upbringing in Queens, NY, and his journey to stardom, it is also obtained reward for its portrayal of the East Coast hip-hop scene.

Watch “Nas: Time Is Illmatic” on the Roku Channel.

“Tupac: Resurrection”

tupac resurrection, tupac shakur, 2003, (c) paramount/courtesy everett collection
Everett Assortment

Launched in 2003, this documentary options narration by Tupac Shakur himself. After Tupac’s loss of life in 1996, his mom, Afeni, contacted producer Preston Holmes, whom she had identified since her work with the Black Panther Occasion within the Nineteen Seventies, and requested him to work together with her on a documentary about her son’s life, per the Los Angeles Instances. Collectively, they sifted by way of an unlimited reservoir of interviews, movies, and recordings Tupac had made through the years so as to craft the narration. Made extra shifting by his mother’s involvement and the usage of his voice, “Tupac: Resurrection” explores Tupac’s early days and the struggles, spirituality, violence, and music that outlined his life. “This is my story,” Tupac says in the course of the documentary, “and my story is about ambition, violence, redemption and love.”

“Wu: The Story of the Wu-Tang Clan”

This documentary follows the rise of the legendary nine-person rap group, starting with their formation in Staten Island, NY, in 1993. Launched in 2007, it follows the group throughout their ascendancy to superstardom, their fall, and their rebirth.

Watch “Wu: The Story of the Wu-Tang Clan” on Amazon Prime Video.

“Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap”

something from nothing: the art of rap, from left: q-tip, director ice-t, 2012. indomina releasing/courtesy everett collection

Ice-T made his directorial debut with this 2012 documentary, which dives deep into the technical intricacies of rap. It follows Ice-T as he travels throughout the nation, assembly with legends like Afrika Bambaata, Grandmaster Flash, Nas, Mos Def (now Yasiin Bey), Eminem, Chuck D, Run-DMC, Dr. Dre, Ice Dice, and Snoop Dogg and choosing their brains about their methods and inspirations.

Watch “Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap” on Peacock.

“Fade to Black”

This 2004 documentary tells the story of what was speculated to be JAY-Z’s final efficiency. In 2003, the star introduced he was retiring from music and carried out a farewell present at Madison Sq. Backyard, and this movie the explores the thought course of that led to that call whereas additionally offering new insights about his profession. Along with the Madison Sq. Backyard present, it additionally revolves across the creation of his 2003 LP “The Black Album,” and options Mary J. Blige, Missy Elliot, Beyoncé, and extra.

“Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest”

beats rhymes & life: the travels of a tribe called quest, phife dawg, 2011. ph: robert benavides/sony pictures classics/courtesy everett collection

Legendary hip-hop group A Tribe Known as Quest is the main target of this 2011 documentary, which follows the group’s rise and explores the occasions that led to their break up. Diving deep into on interpersonal conflicts that drove the group aside, the film additionally pays tribute to the group’s iconic legacy and the love for music they share.

Watch “Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest” on Apple TV+.