It’s hard to believe hip-hop has been around for almost 50 years. The genre that started as turntablism at block parties in the Bronx during the early '70s is now a cultural phenomenon. It has infiltrated all aspects of society and pop culture and is dominating the music charts across the world.
Although its existence has been short, much has happened throughout hip-hop history. With the advent of streaming services and people’s thirst for knowledge, the hip-hop documentary has become an important part of telling the story of the culture.
Whether you want to know more about your favourite artist, delve deeper into the cultural impact of hip-hop or learn about the golden age of rap, there is a documentary for you.
So, to help with you viewing experience, here are the most binge worthy hip-hop docos to check out.
Still Rolling Papers (2022)
The most recent doco on this list and produced by our friends at HipHopDX, Still Rolling Papers celebrates the 11th anniversary of Wiz Khalifa’s seminal release Rolling Papers. The film reflects on Khalifa’s legacy and the impact he has had on hip-hop culture over the past decade. Featuring interviews with Khalifa, Snoop Dogg, Curren$y, Chevy Woods and more, the documentary also looks at the rise of the Taylor Gang and the creation behind Rolling Papers.
This Netflix Original focuses on nine different rappers from across America and their station in modern hip-hop. Old heads Nas and T.I. reflect on their careers while new stars Rapsody, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie and G-Eazy discuss their rise to fame and what life is really in the spotlight. Each has a different story to tell and gives a fascinating perspective of fame, fortune, and the hip-hop lifestyle.
Biggie: I Got A Story To Tell (2021)
This Netflix Original is a comprehensive look at the life and times of New York legend The Notorious B.I.G. Documenting his early days as a drug dealer, rise to rap stardom, and tragic death at 24, I Got A Story To Tell is a fascinating look at the real Christoper Wallace. Featuring interviews with Biggie's close friend Sean Combs, mother Voletta Wallace, and ex-wife Faith Evans, along with exclusive archival footage shot by Biggie's longtime buddy Damion "D-Roc" Butler, this is one of the more authentic and revealing hip-hop docos of the last decade. A must watch.
Hip-Hop Evolution (2016-Present)
Hosted by Juno award-winning artist Shad, this extensive docuseries traces the extensive history of hip-hop. Highlighting the major artists and moments from the previous 50 years, Shad interviews all the big-name players, from pioneers DJ Kool Herc and Kurtis Blow to modern legends 50 Cent and Missy Elliott. Across four seasons Hip-Hop Evolution has detailed rap history in chronological order, with the most recent season focusing on the early '00s and the rise of Southern rap and the mixtape influence.
Fade To Black (2004)
It’s hard to believe Jay-Z contemplated retirement in 2014. To celebrate his career and final performance at Madison Square Gardens, Hova released this part-concert, part-documentary film. Footage from his final live show is spliced with interviews, backstage snippets, and studio insights into the making of The Black Album (what was believed to be his final album at the time). This is an all-encompassing doco about a man at the top of his game who almost walked away from it all.
Travis Scott: Look Mom I Can Fly (2019)
Before the tragedy that befall the Astrowold festival, Travis Scott was arguably the biggest rapper in the world. His meteoric rise from a wannabe rapper sleeping on couches in LA to worldwide superstar is documented in this polished doco. Scott allows fans a glimpse into his personal life, discussing his childhood, early career and high-profile relationships. Footage from inside recording sessions and live performances is also included, along with interviews with his close family and friends, including girlfriend Kylie Jenner and Kanye West.
The Defiant Ones (2017)
Ever wondered how a Compton producer responsible for gangster rap and a nerdy New York entrepreneur who co-founded Interscope Records became the dominate force in modern music? The Defiant Ones looks at the odd coupling of Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine and the impact the duo has had on modern music. Detailing the rise of both men and their eventual partnership – resulting in the creation of Beats Electronics – this is a slick doco series highlighting both men’s careers and notable achievements in the music industry.
Nas: Time Is Illmatic (2014)
Released on the 20th anniversary of Nas’ debut album Illmatic, this engaging documentary tells the story of the album’s creation through the rapper’s own words. Interviews with Nas, his brother and his father take centre stage, while other well-known members of the hip-hop community give their thoughts on Nas and his classic album. This is a fascinating dissection of one of hip-hop’s greatest albums.
Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics And Men
The story of the Wu-Tang Clan is one of hip-hop’s most insane tales. Of Mics And Men is a four-part series about the Staten Island collective released in 2019 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the group. All nine living members of the legendary hip-hop group feature, with old footage of Ol’ Dirty Bastard also used. Along with celebrating the good times, this doco series addresses the low points in the group’s history, particularly ODB’s tragic death. This is a must watch for anyone with a passing interest in hip-hop culture.
Rhythm + Flow (2019)
If you’re more of a reality type operator, Rhythm + Flow will be up your alley. This 10-episode series from Netflix documents a music reality show for rappers. The contestants compete for $250,000 in cash, with their performances judged by three of hip-hop's biggest names, T.I., Cardi B and Chance The Rapper. Each episode features special guests from the world of rap but it’s the chemistry between the three judges that really makes this show worth your time.