The Hottest Hip Hop Documentaries for Your Next Movie Night
It’s more or less the hottest part of the summer, and sometimes that means you spend a day inside relaxing. Despite clubs and the like just barely beginning to reopen from the pandemic, you can dive right into the culture of hip-hop from your living room. At Loud News Net, we’ve collected our four favorite hip hop documentaries that showcase the scene in its golden days. Whether you want to jam out and watch Dave Chappelle throw a block party with all-stars, or dig into the dirty beginnings of Organized Noize, we’ve got you covered.
Best Hip Hop Documentaries
Rhyme & Reason (1997)
Peter Spirer’s Rhyme & Reason (1997) may not be a “deep dive” into hip hop history, but it certainly provides us with plenty of quality material. When you need a relaxing night just blazed and reliving the golden days of hip hop, throw this on. Pulling from interviews of many, many rappers and producers from the 90’s scene, you get to hear opinions and perspectives on topics such as family, race, cops, guns, and violence from the people who made hip hop what it was and is. This documentary takes a much wider view on the culture of rap than other similar productions, but that’s what gives it the allure that has kept it popular to this day.
Props to the director for landing so many critical interviews. Kurtis Blow, KRS-One, and Chuck D are part of the lineup, as well as rap icons Ice-T, Dr. Dre, and MC Eiht. I almost hesitate to continue because the list could go on forever, but you should know that you’ll get to hear from the Wu-Tang Clan, Tupac Shakur, and The Notorious B.I.G., less than four days before he was murdered. If you want to see the most real icons in hip hop giving their thoughts on some hot topics, this is the documentary for you.
Dave Chappelle’s Block Party (2005)
Dave Chappelle’s Block Party (2005) is a change of pace from most documentaries. Many productions craft a movie revisiting important moments and stories after the fact. Dave Chappelle released this up-close and personal documentary that covers his spontaneous Brooklyn block party, a concert with as many stars as you could pack into one night. We’re talking performers like Common, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Kanye West, The Roots, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Kool G Rap, The Fugees, and more. It’s a lineup you can’t miss. Thank God it was recorded for us to watch in 2021!
While the film itself can feel disorganized at times, it adds to the realness and authenticity of the event. This wasn’t announced beforehand, and some of the earlier scenes show Dave handing out tickets for a bus ride, room to stay, and admission to his block party. It’s not polished, and it’s not perfect. Dave Chappelle is doing stand-up in the rain, and Kanye is doing his best not to go full god-mode on everyone. If you want to watch a documentary that makes you feel like you were there (or at least really, REALLY wish you were there), this is the one for you. Kick back with a joint or a drink and party with Dave and the crew. This one is in honor of Dilla, who passed a month before release.
Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest (2011)
It wouldn’t be a classic hip hop movie night without Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest (2011). Join A Tribe on their journey as they street-report with an Afrocentric premise in this classic hip hop documentary. If you want to learn about this iconic group, but the weed’s just asking for tunes, you can get both in this film! Featuring old clips and videos from the classic first days of the group, producer Michael Rapaport did a great job for his first-ever documentary. One of the more touching parts comes at the end, where we see Q-Tip and Phife Dawg back in the studio together. At this point, you’ve seen them air out their frustrations with one another in individual interviews. The scene is set just before a reunion concert, and it seems the two are getting back into sync. The nostalgic and short video of the two grooving together in the studio alone is impactful, to say the least.
A Tribe Called Quest went through its fair share of disagreements that eventually ended the partnership of the two MCs, and the namesake album of this documentary is evidence of that. Beats, Rhymes & Life, the album itself, would be mentioned for the span of only a couple of minutes. Frankly, it sucks that A Tribe Called Quest fell apart. They are held in such high regard today for a reason. Any big fan of theirs deserves to see the uncut and revealing moments caught on film here. R.I.P Phife.
The Art of Organized Noize (2016)
Rico Wade, Ray Murray, and Sleepy Brown played the part of producers in every sense of the word. While they gained prominence through their musical production, they also put together the documentary The Art Of Organized Noize in 2016. It’s a must-see for hip-hop aficionados. The documentary centers around the legendary production group Organized Noize and branches out into the butterfly effect they had on hip hop, particularly in the South. For example, the serious influence Organized Noize had on Outkast’s sound in the early days.
In this film, you can find incredible insights from the O.G.’s such as Andre 3000, Big Boi, L.A. Reid, Pebbles, Cee-Lo, Big Gipp, and T-Mo. These guys are the basis of the South’s sound, undoubtedly. The documentary chronicles Organized Noize and the aforementioned artists as they grapple with record labels and newfound fame. This one gets down and dirty, you even get to listen to members of the Dungeon Family break down the checks they were cashing. This is a vivid, personal recounting of the growth that Rico Wade and Co. saw as they crafted incredible careers for themselves.