Hip hop, film and television often intersect, and with hip hop being so culturally rich, there are now a multitude of shows one can watch if one wants to learn more about the culture and explore the lives of certain artists.
Like any other documentary or film, not all hip hop shows are amazing, and the case is undeniably hit-and-miss. However, with hip hop now being over 40 years old, it would be truly impossible for one film or docuseries to encapsulate the entire culture, but some have done it very well, to say the least.
Most rap shows showcase hip hop from the 1980s and 1990s, as they were two of the most turbulent decades for the culture. However, they were undoubtedly interesting decades, and both played an integral part in the development of hip hop. Since then, many lessons have been learnt, and the (now older) artists are always keen to share their stories.
When documentaries and films pertaining to hip hop culture get commissioned, it is always exciting as fans often get to see rare footage and never before seen interviews with deceased artists. Furthermore, it is always interesting to get that rare glimpse into the world of recording, studio life and fame.
Although there are quite a lot of hip hop Netflix shows, we have decided to pick out our top five to get you started on your journey into the world of hip hop television. See our picks in the list below.
The five best shows to watch on Netflix if you love hip hop:
Who Killed Jam Master Jay? (2018)
Jam Master Jay (real name Jason Mizell) of Run-DMC was a legend in his time and, before his death, was one of the most influential DJs in hip hop.
As part of Run-DMC, along with his crew members Joseph “Run” Simmons and Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, Mizell helped pioneer hip hop during the 1980s and produced some of their biggest hits.
However, in 2002, at the age of 37, Mizell was shot and killed at his Jamaica, Queens recording studio, and now his family are looking for justice. Police had hit a dead end with every line of inquiry, and the murder was put down as an unsolved cold case.
This 58-minute documentary explores Mizell as an individual, his circumstance, and every line of enquiry the NYPD pursued following his murder.
Jeen-Yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy (2022)
Perhaps a regret of Netflix now that Kanye has been effectively blackballed. This three-part documentary showcases the rise of West from a broke Chicago teenage producer to a billionaire tycoon.
Direction by the filmography duo Coodie and Chike, who directed West’s ‘Through The Wire’ music video in 2004, this series shows Kanye’s growth as a musician but also as a person who was and is undoubtedly flawed.
The title, which effectively labels Kanye as a genius, most definitely feeds into West’s unhealthy messiah complex. However, irrespective of the title chosen, the documentary really does give us a deeper look into how Kanye has achieved the feats he has. A good watch.
Biggie: I Got A Story To Tell (2021)
One of many documentaries about Biggie Smalls, I Got A Story To Tell is definitely one of the better ones.
Featuring extremely rare footage and in-depth interviews, this documentary doesn’t focus on his death but instead celebrates his life and his journey from the street corners of Brooklyn to the best-selling rap artist of the 1990s.
The Defiant Ones (2017)
This four-part series showcases the entrepreneurial business relationship that was forged between the legendary Dr Dre and the founder of Interscope Records, Jimmy Iovine, following his departure from Death Row.
Dr Dre and Jimmy Iovine, together, are responsible for the careers of some of the most well-known artists and producers of all time. Aftermath Records and its many imprints had an unfathomable amount of artists and, in its prime, was undoubtedly one of the most potent labels in hip hop.
During the early noughties, Aftermath had 50 Cent, Eminem, Xzibit, The Game, Scott Storch, Obie Trice, D12, G-Unit, Eve, Raekwon and more on its roster. It is even currently home to Silk Sonic and Kendrick Lamar, among others.
Together, Iovine and Dre launched Beats Headphones, Beats Radio and other ventures outside of music. Together they’re a powerhouse, and this documentary explores their journey and dynamic.
Hip Hop Evolution (2020)
This incredible docuseries, as inferred by the title, explores the evolution of hip hop from its humble beginnings in the late 1970s to the multi-billion dollar industry it is today.
The documentary explores its evolution in the mainstream as well as its subgenres and breakoff movements. Furthermore, the documentary doesn’t just explore rap music; it explores the two other pillars of hip hop culture, breakdancing and graffiti art.
A must-watch for an individual with poor or limited knowledge of hip hop and the various forms it can come at you in.