Throughout the four decade history of hip-hop, there have been many movies that have attempted to capture the true essence of the culture. Plenty have been good, some just alright, but it's a rarity when a film is a masterpiece. What are they? Do they even exist? Of course they do. So, sit back in bask in the nostalgia, as I take you on a trip back down memory lane with the 7 best hip-hop movies of all time.
1. "Wild Style" (1983)
Wild Style is regarded as the first hip hop motion picture, which ultimately means that it paved the way for the others.
The film takes place in early '80s in New York, and is notable for featuring several hip hop pioneers; such as, Busy Bee Starski, Fab Five Freddy, The Cold Crush Brothers, and Grandmaster Flash. Throughout the Charlie Ahearn produced film, are scenes depicting numerous activities common in the early days of hip hop including MCing, DJing, graffiti, and B-boying. The film demonstrates the interconnections between music, dance, and art in the development of hip hop culture.
Breakin', the iconic breakdancing-themed film, was directed by Joel Silberg. The film’s setting was in the multi-racial hip hop club Radiotron, based out of Macarthur Park in Los Angeles. Many of the actors in the film were actual artists and dancers, including iconic rapper Ice-T, and freestyle dancer Michael “Boogaloo Shrimp” Chambers, and dancer/choreographer Adolfo “Shabba Doo” Quinones.
The groundbreaking dance film unites Kelly (Lucinda Dickey), a struggling young and gifted jazz dancer is introduced to two talented street dancers, named Ozone(Adolfo “Shabba Doo” Quinones) and Turbo(Michael “Boogaloo Shrimp” Chambers), who have a rivalry with another crew known as Electro Rock. Electro Rock consisted of fellow pop lockers Timothy "Popin' Pete" Solomon, Bruno "Poppin' Taco" Falcon and Ana 'Lollipop' Sánchez. In the midst of the rivalry, they also struggle to overcome scorn from Kelly's dance instructor, Franco, who disapproves of her affiliation with street dancers.
Through it all, Breakin features a variety of breakthrough performances, such as Turbo's iconic "Broom dance Scene", and many hit songs are featured, including "There's No Stoppin' Us" by Ollie & Jerry and "Tour de France" by Kraftwerk.
3. "Beat Street" (1984)
Beat Street introduced hip hop to the mainstream with his drama about an aspiring Bronx-bred DJ.
Set in the South Bronx, the Stan Lathan film follows the lives of a pair of brothers and their group of friends, all of whom are devoted to various elements of early hip hop culture. Kenny Kirkland (Guy Davis) is a budding disc jockey and MC, and his younger brother Lee (Robert Taylor) is a hardcore b-boy who dances with Beat Street Breakers, who were the actual dance crew the New York City Breakers. Kenny's best friends are Ramon (Jon Chardiet), a graffiti artist known by his tag, "Ramo", and Chollie (Leon W. Grant), his self-styled manager/promoter.
Kenny has dreams of performing in New York City's top nightclubs, especially the Roxy, which was NYC’s most popular club at the time. and on one visit he crosses paths with Tracy (Rae Dawn Chong), a college music student and composer. Stand out performances include hip hop pioneers the Treacherous Three and the New Years Eve performance at the end.
4. "Krush Groove" (1985)
Writer Ralph Farquhar and director Michael Schultz created a milestone with this delightful look at the early days of record label Def Jam Recordings and its CEO Russell Simmons. Blair Underwood‘s brilliant portrayal of Mr. Simmons, left many in disbelief that it was his acting debut. Krush Groove depicts the highs and lows of the music business, in addition to what it takes to successfully run a record label. Iconic performances and cameos by hip hop’s pioneers, Run-D.M.C., The Fat Boys, and LL Cool J all accentuate Krush Groove’s staple in hip hop culture.
5. "8 Mile" (2002)
8 Mile chronicles the journey of a young white rapper named Jimmy "B-Rabbit" Smith Jr. While living in the inner city of Detroit, Jimmy, charismatically portrayed by Eminem, encounters many obstacles, as he attempts to launch a rap career. As an unhappy blue collar worker, living with his alcoholic mother, her abusive boyfriend, and little sister, Jimmy was determined to beat the odds.
The Curtis Hanson-directed and semi autobiographical film, won Eminem the Academy Award for Best Original Song for hit single, "Lose Yourself”, which was featured on the film’s soundtrack.
6. "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" (2005)
Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson portrayed the part of Marcus, a quiet young boy who adores his mother, who is local and successful drug dealer. She often has to leave him with his grandparents to be looked after while she takes care of her business. After she is brutally murdered, Marcus travels the wrong roads, and as he grows older, he enters the drug game himself.
Released on November 9, 2005, Get Rich or Die Tryin, marked 50’s debut as an actor. Based on 50 Cent's own life, the film was directed by 6-time Academy Award-nominee Jim Sheridan.
7. "Hustle & Flow"(2005)
Hustle & Flow stars the multitalented Terrence Howard as a Memphis pimp and drug dealer who is dissatisfied with his life. After acquiring a keyboard and reacquainting himself with an old friend from school, who has become a sound technician, DJ decides to try his hand at making hip hop songs.
The John Singleton and Stephanie Allain produced film won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for Three 6 Mafia's song "It's Hard out Here for a Pimp." In addition, Howard was nominated for Best Actor. The movie was dedicated to Sun Records founder Sam Phillips.
These films have undeniably paved the way for all current and future hip hop films. Despite how old they are, one can not deny how important that these films are not only in hip hop culture, but in musical history.