Articles: Top Ten Hip-Hop Films




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Jeff Usry

Don’t look for any of these gems at the Oscars or any other award ceremony. These films aren’t about acting or storytelling. In fact, those elements are treated just as bumpers between what the audience has really paid to see — great music and dancing. Like the early ‘60s twisting Chubby Checker rock n’ roll pictures, or the beach party and Woodstock-driven movies of the late ‘60s, hip-hop movies define a generation. They’re an exercise in self-expression and ultra coolness. They push the envelope on what’s politically and socially cool for the youth of their era.

Here’s our list of straight-up classics and some newer flicks that punctuate the hip-hop phenomenon. All are available on DVD and VHS.

The warning is on the label. Back Stage a is documentary of the 1999 Hard Knock Life Tour—featuring Jay-Z, DMX, Method Man, Redman, and other rappers. The film shows the chaotic, confusing and grueling life on tour.

Legendary calypso singer/dancer Harry Belafonte jumps in the producer’s seat with the first film to focus on breakdancing. Although dated, it’s a great documentation of the old school crews Doug E. Fresh, Kool Moe Dee, Jazzy Jeff, NYC Breakers and others.

Released a month before Beat Street, Breakin’ was the first to offer the reoccurring theme of street dancer striving to win the big dance competition. Forget about the contrived plot, Breakin’s off-the-hook dance sequences are still the standard other street dancing movies use as a measuring stick.

Drumline is the film that proved half time bands are more dramatic than any college football game. Newcomer Nick Cannon stars as Devon, a skin-bangin' prodigy who joins A&T’s marching band on a scholarship in Drumline, a hip and sexy comedy about rival college bands trying to win BET’s Big Southern Classic band championship. The crux of the story underlines Devon’s battle of wills with his section leader. Devon thinks the school’s music selection is outmoded and boring, and his flamboyant hip-hop style constantly gets him in trouble with school officials.

Based loosely on the early life of Russell Simmons, Krush Groove is a cult classic featuring unforgettable performances by Sheila E., Run D.M.C., the Fat Boys, Kurtis Blow, Beastie Boys in the New York hip-hop underground of the 1980s.

The most enjoyable aspect of 8 Mile is the music and the amazing freestyle rap battles which erupt throughout the picture. Many of the tracks highlighted are from Wu Tang Clan, Redman, Method Man, Ray Qwon and Jazza. However, most of the music is originally scored by Eminem. Great music and incredible freestyle.

Fear Of A Black Hat is a side-splittingly funny mock documentary about the imaginary hard-core rap group NWH (Niggaz With Hats). The documentary goes "behind the music" with independent filmmaker Nina Blackburn, who tracks NWH's rise and fall from stardom. As with real rap groups, NWH's songs and videos are intentionally shocking to the weak of heart. People who aren't rap fans might have a problem with the film's biting satire and parody songs "Guerrillas in the Midst" and "Booty Juice."

An instant classic that could have been a cheesy hip-hop flick, if not for Reginald Hudlin at the helm. House Party is hip hop’s answer to Risky Business. When Play learns his folks are leaving town, he plans a house party, but his buddy Kid is grounded by his pop. So of course, Kid sneaks out to attend the party. It’s worth noting that comedian Martin Lawrence got his start in this flick.

Featuring interviews with Heavy D, The Fugees, Ice-T, The Notorious B.I.G., and Salt-N-Pepa, Rhyme and Reason documents the rise of rap music and its splinters. Director Peter Spirer interviews more than 80 rappers as he examines the roots of rap and where it started on both coasts.

Features hip hop pioneering DJs Grand Master Flash, Grand Wizard Theodore, The Cold Crush Brothers, The Rock Steady Crew, Grand Master Caz, Charlie Chase, Busy Bee, Fab Five Freddy and others, Wild Style is the forerunner of Beat Street and Breakin,’ documenting the birth of the South Bronx hip-hop.

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