Director and ex-footballer Byron Hurt rips apart the music he loves in Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes, screening at Cinema Politica next Monday.
In the one-hour doc, hip-hop’s violence, masculinity, symbolism, and objectification of women are given a thorough examination. What’s exposed are the cultural, physical, historical, and commercial forces that impede growth in the musical genre and ultimately, growth in black culture.
Through dozens of interviews conducted with moguls in the hip-hop industry, Hurt expresses how society limits a hip-hop artist’s range of expression. Artists like Chuck D, Nelly, and Russell Simmons know the importance of playing the role of the invulnerable thug, and how much power and appeal can be generated with a “bitches ain’t shit’ mentality.
These interviews – which are well padded with hip-hop tracks and commentary from Hurt – are extremely telling. When Conrad Tiller, a “hip-hop minister” lays out how growing up in the Bronx and being called names since the age of seven turns boys into the thugs, it feels like you are getting somewhere in terms of understanding what makes a “gangsta.”
Men and women on the street are interviewed as well, from rap hopefuls to white boys in their daddy’s SUV. Each interview is a story as to why so many men love the violence and power in rap, exploring what is so “Americana” about this now-common archetype.
Hurt touches upon what’s wrong with the business model of rap; to sell “over 700,000” means selling to white boys, who want all the violence and sexism that Hurt says is stunting the genres growth.
Hurt worked on the film for over two years and the quality of the narrative testifies to this. His attitude towards the music he loves seems to urge it forward in a direction where men learn to deal with their feelings honestly instead of putting up a front, and where record labels start treating rap like less of a commodity for white boys.
The only real critique I have about the film is that much of what Hurt urges in the industry is already starting to show itself. But this by no means makes it a non-issue, hip-hop’s coming of age is really a story about men learning to deal with their emotions and their egos. Anybody dealing with these issues should check out this film – hip-hop fan or not. Oh, and bitches can attend if they bangin’.
Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes plays at Cinema Politica on Nov. 2 at 7:30 pm in H-110. Playing along side is African Underground: Hip-Hop in Senegal.