This past weekend we celebrated 44 years since the birth of hip hop. A culture that wasn't given a chance when it was invented, it is now a worldwide phenomenon that isn’t going anywhere. While we all love hip hop I wanted to touch on a overlooked part of hip hop...Movies.
We’ve all seen the biopics and the Musician focused b-movie level films (State Property, Baller Blockin, Cool as Ice, Tougher than leather, Get Rich or Die Tryin etc.) I want to give my opinion on the top 5 films that I feel embody hip hop.
# 5 Brown Sugar starring Taye Diggs, Sanaa Lathan, and Mos Def. The movie is at it’s core a love letter to hip hop. It’s about two people meeting because of hip hop and falling in love throughout the years because of hip hop. If you’ve never seen it and can tolerate romantic comedies but love old school hip hop check it out.
# 4 Krush Groove is one of the first mainstream films that bought hip hop to the world. Loosely based on the beginnings of Def Jam, it contains a who’s who at that time. Run Dmc, Sheila E, Kurtis Blow, Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, The Fat Boys and more. It has the classic tropes of following your dreams and being hungry but connecting with the wrong people when things go wrong, pay for the consequences in the meantime. It also shows how new found fame and money can tear apart long lasting friendships and family.
# 3 is CB4, one of my personal favorites it’s a satire of gangsta rap of it’s time. Written and starring Chris Rock it displays his comedic genius at it’s best. Playing a aspiring rapper along with his two best friends, they live boring middle class lifes. Crafting a “gangsta” image and persona they find success, at the same time finding out how hard it is to maintain that image. Also how being yourself is usually your best bet, the parody of N.W.A.s “Straight Outta Compton”, “Straight outta Locash” is a hilarious catchy song that would have you wishing it was real.
# 2 on my list is 8 Mile starring Eminem. Also loosely based on his life before he hit it big, Em plays Rabbit. All Rabbit wants to do is go to work, and hone his craft hoping to catch his big break. Along with his friends and fellow rappers 313rd they battle rival crews trying to make a name in the Detroit rap scene. Em’s acting is top notch here probably because he lived it. It has classic mid-90s hip hop songs, sick freestyles due to Em’s masterful delivery and lyricism. It also has an ambiguous ending. Definitely one of the better musician focused films, maybe even surpassing Purple Rain.
#1 on my list is Beat Street, it gets this honor not because of it’s story, but because of it’s cultural influence. Along with Wild Style these two films helped bring hip hop to the masses nationally and internationally. Beat Street is about a group of friends in the bronx (Home of hip hop) who all are involved in hip hop, each taking a particular interest in one of the five elements of hip hop. Djing, graffiti, breakdancing, mcing, beatboxing all are shown love and appreciation in this film. Also featuring cameos by Afrika Bambaataa, Doug E fresh, Kool Herc, Treacherous Three, Grandmaster Melle and the Furious Five and more. If you love hip hop you can’t go wrong with this one. Check out this originator if you’ve never seen it.
These are the top 5 films I feel convey hip hop and what it stands for. There are honorable mentions such as Breakin, House Party, Fear of a Black Hat, and Hustle and Flow. Each of the films listed above show just how influential hip hop can be. Some more than others but they all do a great job. If you’ve never seen any of them I strongly encourage tracking them down and watching them. In the meantime I feel we are overdue on a new film in our current age that’s a ode to hip hop and its culture.