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This programme contains very strong language and contains scenes which some viewers may find upsetting.
# Uh, one, two, one, two
-All my dogs
# It's bigger than hip-hop, hip-hop... #
'I love hip-hop. I love everything it stands for.'
I love its art, its beauty, power.
And I love its ability to transform people's lives, people like me.
'Hip-hop has given me the tools to see the world in new ways and a
'powerful language to express it,
'but I know that from the outside, some people see the culture
'I represent as shallow, brash and even violent.'
But I think they couldn't be more wrong.
'The hip-hop I know gives a voice to the voiceless.
'It's a place where the disenfranchised feel heard
'and stories that you may not hear in the mainstream'
can be voiced and shouted and roared!
'I want to show you what the world looks like when it is seen through
'the lens of hip-hop.
'And I'm going on a journey to meet some of the stars and key
'players who have helped shape that view.
'My Hip Hop World News talks about issues that matter to me.'
MUFFLED SHOUTS Whether it be police brutality...
It's been happening to black people in America for 400 years.
..or the latest conspiracy theory...
Things like the prison industrial complex,
it's not even a conspiracy theory!
It's our reality.
'I want to show how hip-hop empowers and educates...'
Rappers and MCs, I think, had this sense that they were teachers,
you know? That they were schoolin' you.
..how it celebrates the things we all aspire to
and now wields influence at the very highest levels.
When you look at the ascension of Barack Obama, there were
elements of hip-hop that helped to get him elected, for sure.
-# Oh, my gosh
# Look at her butt... #
The Hip Hop World News covers difficult issues too,
like the treatment of women...
-It's misogynistic as hell.
..using images and language that even I find challenging.
It's like there's some board somewhere, that's like,
you know, "No hip-hop song can be released
"unless there is at least 3.5 'niggas' in that song."
'Above all else, The Hip Hop World News shows how
'and why for people like me, this culture isn't just the soundtrack
'to our lives.
'It has changed them forever.'
Where I'm from, at 16 years old,
you're supposed to be on drugs, in jail or dead.
So, if you are prepared to embrace a hip-hop state of mind,
or maybe adjust your goggles a little bit to hip-hop vision...
'you might just discover there's a whole new reality out there
'waiting for you.'
And once you've seen the world from this perspective,
you may never want to go back to your own reality.
This is The Hip Hop World News.
# Hip-hop, hip It's bigger than hip-hop,
# We was on 46... #
Cold rockin', innit?
-# Spoke a few words they was on our dicks
# London Posse, we don't choke... #
Wow, I find that... I'm looking at that,
I'm finding that hard to imagine that's me. Look at how sweaty I am!
16 years old, I had more facial hair and I was a couple stone heavier
than I am now.
You all look so young!
'My name is Rodney P and I'm an MC.
'And as a rapper, I've been part of the game since the early days
'of hip-hop culture.'
'It was in the early '80s that we first heard these American
'kids talking about their lives and decided we would do the same.'
And I've been doing it ever since.
Hip-hop started out as party music,
but it has always operated on two levels - making people dance
while carrying messages, ideas and news.
Chuck D of Public Enemy once said that hip-hop was the CNN of
the streets and there is one story that
has always been the lead item of our news...
# Whoop-whoop, that's the sound of the police
# Whoop-whoop, that's the sounds of the beast... #
For most people, the police are seen as a force for good.
They are there to protect people and property, and serve the community.
But when you look at the police through the lens of hip-hop,
it's a very different picture.
Hip-hop comes from a place where the police are seen as...
well, the enemy.
# Overseers, overseers overseers, overseers
# Officer, officer officer, officer, officer
# Whoop-whoop, that's the sound of the police. #
Hip-hop has been talking about police brutality for decades.
In 1988, an unknown group called NWA took the conversation to
a whole new level with a track that changed the game.
# Fuck the police
# Fuck-fuck Fuck the police
# Fuck-fuck Fuck the police
# Fuck-fuck Fuck the police... #
First time I heard Fuck Tha Police,
the first thought in my head was, "Is this allowed?"
# For a punk motherfucker with a badge and a gun
# To be beatin' on... #
It was revolutionary.
We were shocked.
We were shocked that someone,
young people, young black men,
were actually expressing publicly, loudly, what we felt.
# You'd rather see me in the pen
# Than me and Lorenzo rollin' in a Benz-o... #
The way NWA did it was brand-new.
They spoke about the police the way that people speak about
the police in the barbershop, on the road, on the street corners.
Yeah, fuck you. Fuck you. Fuck you for handling me a certain way.
Fuck you for treating me a certain way,
talking to me a certain way.
Fuck you for actually making me feel like I can't come to you.
# Eazy is his name and the boy is comin'
# Straight outta Compton
# Is a brother that'll smother your mother
# And make your sister think I love her. #
They were just so mad aggressive and full of expletives and cussing
and the N-word and F this
and shoot this and kill this.
I'm like, "Wow! These guys are really mad about something."
# ..Creep a while
# And when I see a punk pass, I smile... #
And on the one hand, your snobby, purist instinct is like,
"These dudes with Jheri curls... They can't rap."
And on the other hand, there's such a...
intrinsic, like, power to what they are saying.
The language that they used to describe how they felt about
police was the language a kid like me could absolutely relate to.
Now, I was growing up in South London, I didn't have a gun
or have any intentions of shooting at any policemen or...
I hadn't even actually had that much personal contact with police.
But my history and my lifestyle meant that
these were the stories that I had grown up listening to.
I remember Dale Earnhardt Junior,
who's a great NASCAR driver, right?
And he said that it was in Fuck Tha Police,
hearing that song, that he realised that some people in America
have a difficult relationship with the police, that he didn't know.
He lived in a rural community where he would drive
and there would be a cop and he'd be like,
"Hey, Terry, how you doing?" You know.
"Cos I know Terry, cos he's a nice guy. He's been a cop in this area
"for 20 years, along with, you know, Jim and Bob and whoever
"and it's all good."
You know, you come up to the big city and things are a lot different.
We don't know them, they don't know us, you know?
And it gets pretty dramatic at times. But he did know that.
We've got kids in the hood in Baltimore, in Chicago, in Philly,
they look at the police the same way the little Iraqi kids look at
the American soldiers.
It's an outside force occupying a community.
You ain't saving no streets, you ain't saving nothin'!
F Tha Police, by itself, by itself, you know,
is challenging the power structure.
It's challenging racism in this country.
It's challenging the reckless disregard for our lives
by police forces.
NWA took our everyday reality of police brutality
out of the hood and into the charts.
Their debut album, Straight Outta Compton,
sold three million copies
and introduced the world to so-called gangsta rap.
Now they consider it to be gangsta rap.
I never considered it at the time.
As extreme as it was, it was still real. It felt real.
The dysfunctional behaviour of the police towards black
Americans continues to resonate when Philando Castile was
shot dead by the police of Minnesota during a traffic stop.
Shocking footage of the event was live-streamed on Facebook
as it happened.
I will, sir. No worries. I will.
He just shot his arm off.
-We got pulled over on...
-I told him not to reach for it.
I told him to get his hand off it!
You told him to get his ID, sir.
His driver's licence.
Now we have iPhones, now we have documentation
and they're like, "Oh, my God, how's that happening?"
It's been happening to black people in America for 400 years.
The abuse of people of colour is an American phenomenon.
-A fight break out, I stop it, so you can run up on me?
-That's all right...
-The people that's fighting,
you just let 'em walk away?! Are you serious?
How many years have we been talking about police brutality and
the media is like, "Fuck you guys. You guys are savages, we are not
"going to pay attention to you, until it's media worthy."
-Do not touch me.
Let him go! He ain't do nothing.
We are very upset with the situation
that's been going on in our neighbourhoods.
We are upset with, you know,
the way we've been treated.
I mean, you don't even have to just rattle off names like Eric Garner,
Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, you know, Mike Brown,
the list goes on and on.
You know, it's heartbreaking to feel helpless in a society that you live.
I respect the law enforcement officers very greatly.
I have a problem with the way that they have been...
in the black community.
-I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe.
I can't breathe. I can't breathe.
# Nigga, when our pride was low
# Looking at the world like, "Where do we go?"
# Nigga! And we hate popo
# Wanna kill us dead in the street for sure
# Nigga, I'm at the preacher's door
# My knees gettin' weak and my gun might blow
# But we gon' be alright Nigga, we gon' be alright... #
Even now, more than a quarter of a century
after NWA's ground-breaking track,
the police are still the top item
on the Hip Hop World News.
As this footage shows, Kendrick Lamar's Alright
has been adopted as a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement.
-We gonna be alright! We gonna be alright!
Coming from a place where experience shows
that the authorities may well kill you,
it's not surprising that hip-hop culture is sceptical
about the official story
and receptive to alternative explanations
of, "What's really going on?"
# I really think the war on terror is a bunch of bullshit
# Just a poor excuse for you to use up all your bullets
# How much money does it take to really make a full clip?
# 9/11, Building 7, did they really pull it? #
Seen from the outside,
the hip-hop mind-set can seem overly suspicious at times,
but it's a bit like the old joke -
"Just cos you're paranoid
"doesn't mean they're not out to get you."
# In the first place That's on the up and up... #
Hip-hop taught me to look for the extra narrative in anything.
So, when I look at the news, I look for the extra narrative.
I look for what I'm not being told as well as what I am being told.
# And that ain't Jersey Shore
# Homey, that's the news
# And these the same people supposed to be telling us the truth... #
If you listen to a lot of hip-hop,
and you're not fully understanding institutional racism, then, yeah,
a lot of the things that they talk about
may seem like conspiracies.
"The police are out to get us," "The schools are out to get us,"
"The Government is out to get us."
"Oh, my God, these guys think everyone is out to get them."
Well, actually, yeah.
They live in a matrix of institutional racism
that is constructed to keep them
at a low level of having no status in America.
It's not like these theories come from hip-hop.
It's just that hip-hop in general,
hip-hop teaches people to be more open-minded anyway.
I wouldn't say that hip-hop loves conspiracy.
I would say that in a lot of ways,
the truth has been deemed conspiracy.
You know, ten years ago I was telling people, you know,
I think that the Government is tapping our e-mails
and I think they're keeping a registry of that.
And people were like, "That's paranoia.
"That's conspiracy. You're crazy."
Edward Snowden comes out,
and now what was conspiracy is documented fact.
Hip-hop often provides a platform for theories
before they become generally accepted.
One idea now finding more traction outside of hip-hop
explains why black people represent less than one in eight
of the American population, but nearly 40% of its prisons.
# Hip-Hop past all your tall social hurdles
# Like the nationwide projects, prison-industry complex... #
There's conspiracies and then there are things
that have a paper trail, have a history -
things like the prison industrial complex.
The prison industrial complex really is this interconnected web
of entities that profits from mass incarceration.
Right, there are more people in jail in the United States
than during the gulag in USSR,
during apartheid in South Africa combined.
You've got Fortune 500 companies using prison labour, right,
and they're basically paying prisoners nothing
and they're able to say that these products are made in the USA.
The reason why they can do this, right,
is because the 13th Amendment says,
"Slavery is illegal, except in the form of punishment,"
so if someone is being punished, they can essentially be a slave
but you don't have to pay them minimum wage.
So, you got prisoners making 12 cents an hour.
So, it's all these new ways, and it's kind of like colonialism,
then you have neo-colonialism.
It's a new way to kind of achieve the same result, right?
How do we still take the bulk of the young, black talent -
males, women - and incarcerate them, essentially, and enslave them?
So, conspiracy theory? It's not even a conspiracy theory.
It's all reality. It's a luxury to have a conspiracy theory.
Before we go any further,
I just need to make one thing very clear.
Hip-hop is much more than just a style of music.
There are five elements to this culture.
graffiti art, break dancing,
and the fifth element that often is forgotten, knowledge.
So, if you're going to look at the world
through the lens of hip-hop, you have to take in all of this.
Not just rap music, but the entire culture.
Rappers, people like me, we're the front men,
and we tend to get all the attention.
But the engine of hip-hop is the DJ,
and I'm going to meet one of the most important.
In hip-hop, DJ skills are essential.
It's using the turntables as an instrument.
There's no guitars. There's not a drummer.
There's not a guy on the keyboard.
There's a DJ and he's got two turntables
and a mixer with a mic plugged into it,
and from there, everything stems.
DJ Premier is one of the most highly regarded DJs in the world.
As well as being half of the '90s hip-hop group Gang Starr,
he's also produced tracks for everyone from Jay-Z and Kanye West
to Snoop Dogg, but it all comes from humble beginnings.
When I was a kid,
we used to go to all the local spots where I lived in Texas,
and they had a jukebox and I'd watch the machine
look for the record and the record would drop.
So, I thought it was like a toy.
So, that's what got you into DJ-ing, the technology of it?
And when it spins, as a kid,
you're just sitting there, mesmerised.
My mother used to always go, "It's not a toy, it's not a toy."
But for me, it intrigued me
that music came from the source of those toys.
Then I saw the Buffalo Gals video,
Malcolm McLaren and the World's Famous Supreme Team,
and just seeing them cutting the 45, just the era-era-era-ah!
-In the UK, we credit that record...
..as the record that introduced us
-to hip-hop culture.
Now we knew exactly what the culture looked like
in terms of the dancing and how they dressed and how the art looked.
Two turntables and a microphone.
The imagery for that comes from the Buffalo Gals video
with Malcolm McLaren.
It was extraordinary because
the sound coming out was totally inarticulate.
It was a load of rough noises,
noises that sounded a little like guitar
but had a sort of concrete chisel sound, right?
And the sound, I realised, was actually coming from the way
they were messing around with their hands on the decks,
moving records backwards and forwards.
But they weren't just doing it with one record,
they were doing it with two.
They took the part that we like, you know,
because there's always a part of the record
you wish you could play again and again.
And they're catching that same part and extending it,
and I was like, "I got to learn that."
That was a real eye-opener to me.
This English guy who introduced the world to punk rock music
is also the same guy who introduced the world to hip-hop.
That's an incredible story.
No matter what kind of beats I do, it always has a DJ mentality.
I consider myself an artist, producer,
but I always say, for me, DJ-ing is always number one.
The DJ aspect of it is the reason why I'm nice.
After meeting DJ Premier in LA,
I feel like I need to go back to the roots,
to the birthplace of hip-hop.
New York City is a big part of my story in hip-hop.
The name London Posse came from our trip to New York.
We were going on tour with Big Audio Dynamite
and they needed a name for the poster.
So, it was a two-minute phone conversation.
"We're going to press in a minute. We need a name for the poster.
"What's the name of your group?"
"Uh...London Posse." That's how the name came about.
And we are credited with being the first crew
to really rap with genuine UK accents.
A big part of the reason we did that is cos we went to New York
and quickly realised that rapping in fake American accents
is a stupid idea.
So, you know, New York is part of my DNA
in this hip-hop life that I'm living.
Just, we're doing a film about hip-hop.
You can't make a film about hip-hop and not go to New York.
I figure for many people, that's the Mecca, so here we go.
Nah, that can go in my hand luggage.
# New York girls, dem a mad ova wi
# New York girls, dem a mad ova wi
# New York girls, dem a mad ova wi
# New York girls, dem a mad ova wi
# Nas the don, Nas the don, Nas the don, Nas the don
# Nas the don, Nas the don,
# Nas the don inna New York City... #
To understand hip-hop,
you have to understand the Civil Rights Movement.
Dr King was killed in 1968.
Well, a year before,
someone named Clive Campbell came from Jamaica
in the West Indies to New York to the Bronx -
Kool Herc, one of the founding fathers of hip-hop.
Dr King was talking about
a poor people's campaign at the end of his life.
Who created hip-hop?
Poor African-Americans, poor West Indians,
poor Latinos in a place called the Bronx, New York.
And so, in a lot of ways, hip-hop was a response
to the failures of the Civil Rights Movement,
people moving away from what Dr King was urging people to do -
"Pay attention to poverty. We got to deal with poverty."
And so, when you think about hip-hop,
its very essence is a social commentary.
It doesn't matter what the lyrics say.
You've got two turntables and a microphone,
some spray paint and magic markers.
Some sneakers, some cardboard, linoleum.
These are poor people taking what they had
and creating something out of that. You know what I mean?
So, the very act of doing that is revolutionary.
For me, as a teenager in early '80s Britain,
discovering this amazing new thing called hip-hop culture
was definitely revolutionary.
But a few years earlier, in 1979,
one song truly blew our minds.
-Here is Wonder Mike, Hank and Master Gee -
The Sugarhill Gang!
# I said a hip hop, the hippie, the hippie
# To the hip, hip hop, and you don't stop
# A rock it... #
'Around 11, 12 years old, I heard Rapper's Delight.'
I heard it and I saw it, it was on Top Of The Pops.
# I'm rappin' to the beat
# And me, the groove... #
And, the next day in school,
that song had changed the playground.
It was all about learning the words to that song.
And, if you knew the words to the whole 13-minute version,
you were that guy.
Of course, I knew those words quite quickly.
I learnt and rehearse them often and knew them well.
# Let's rock, you don't stop
# Rock the rhythm that'll make your body rock... #
'Rapper's Delight introduced me,
'and everyone else who didn't live in the Bronx,
'to a brand-new thing called rap.
'Rap turns MCs from people who talked over records at parties
'into pop stars.
'When we talk about the Hip Hop World News,
'the MCs are the anchors who deliver the message,
'and they all came with their own unique presentational style.
'I took inspiration from rappers like Grandmaster Caz
'from the Cold Crush Brothers.
'And Run from Run DMC.
'I like the flow of Just-Ice
'and the lyrical content of Kool G Rap.
'It takes a lot of skill, knowledge and wordplay to be an MC.
'And one of the continual debates hip-hop is...
'who's the greatest?'
HIP-HOP INTRO PLAYS
# To all the ladies in the place
# With style and grace
# Allow me to lace these lyrical duches in your bushes... #
You know what? I think, in terms of lyricism,
I don't think anybody
could beat Biggie.
But, in terms of consistency, total package,
music, lyrics, business, everything,
I'm going to go with Jay-Z.
# You're now tuned into the motherfucking greatest. #
It's talent, it's societal impact...
So, for me, if I had to say the greatest MC of all time,
I'd have to give it to Jay-Z.
# If you feelin' like a pimp nigga,
# Go and brush your shoulders off
# Ladies is pimps too, gon' brush your shoulders off
# Niggas is crazy, baby... #
Since Reasonable Doubt,
nonstop with hits.
Like, shit that changed the game.
Everything about him just says
the greatest of all time.
# Middle finger to the law, nigga gripping my balls... #
I'll go with Kendrick.
Kendrick is fucking killing it.
# This your favourite song
# Translation: Ven aqui mami... #
Kendrick has given you great, great albums with diverse concepts,
that tackle them from a perspective that no-one has explored yet
in his own unique way.
And I think it's fucked up people are hating on him
just cos he's newer.
# Let's get it nights like this I'm a knight like this
# Sword in my hand, I fight like this
# I am more than a man, I'm a god
# Bitch, touche, en garde
# Toupee drop and her two tits pop
# Out of that tank top and bra
# And when I say, "Doo Doo Doo Doo!"
# Bitch, that be K. Dot... #
The greatest MC of all time, for me...
..for me, I'd say Rakim.
You know, I would say Rakim.
For me, it's Rakim.
Rakim is just the greatest rhyme writer,
lyricist in the hip-hop period.
Rakim completely reinvented the way you rapped.
It was so advanced then.
Nobody sounded like him.
# This was a take, I wasn't supposed to break
# I was supposed to wait, but let's motivate
# I wanna see 'em keep followin' and swallowin'
# Takin' the makin', bitin' and borrowin'... #
He's the one who takes us from...
you know, really monosyllabic rhymes to polysyllabic rhymes,
adds internal rhymes.
I mean, he is the beginning of the modern rapper
and the way we rhyme today.
# What could you say as the Earth gets further and further away
# Planets as small as balls of clay... #
Rakim shifted the paradigm, man.
Like, for me, that's my greatest ever.
# And turn around and look
# As you stare into the darkness
# Your knowledge: took!
The attraction of Rakim was his flow,
his lyrical dexterity, his content.
But also what he represented as a man.
He wasn't afraid to be smart.
He wasn't trying to dumb himself down,
or present the image of the street thug.
But, lyrically, he touched on those things.
But that's not what he wanted to bring to the table.
He was bringing much more positivity, much more empowerment
to the table, as well as making some fantastic party music.
That's why he was the greatest.
It's not one thing. It's all of them.
'I'm supposed to be meeting Rakim today.
'The only thing is, he hasn't shown up.'
This is New York City.
We're living on hip-hop time.
MCs like Rakim were more than entertainers.
They were the people who taught us to see the world
from a different perspective.
MUSIC: I Can by Nas
# I know I can
# Be what I wanna be... #
Hip-hop gave us an education.
It opened our eyes to what was really going on around the world.
But hip-hop did more than just tell us what was happening.
It taught us new ideas on how to construct and compose
a language to express them.
# I'll be where I wanna be (I'll be where I wanna be)
# Be, B-Boys and girls, listen up
# You can be anything in the world
# In God we trust
# An architect, doctor, maybe an actress
# But nothing comes easy, it takes much practice... #
The greatest lesson hip-hop ever taught me
absolutely is the power of words.
The complexity that's displayed by some lyricists in hip-hop is really
at the forefront of American writing.
Where's poetry being consumed in the 21st century?
How is it being consumed?
It's in the poetry of Kendrick Lamar,
it's in J. Cole's lyrics.
That's where poetry is being consumed by the masses.
That's when metaphors and double entendres and triple entendres
and similes and all these lyrical devices are being employed.
Hip-hop is as important as Shakespeare. I would even argue
it's probably more important than Shakespeare at this point.
And I love Shakespeare.
-# I run laps around the scholars of tomorrow
# Because their new schools of thought
# Are merely our histories borrowed
# And they label me militant
# Black, national, radical
# Yo, they try to put my learning process on sabbatical
# But I don't apologise
# I spit truth into those eyes
# That have been infected by those lies
# Then, they tried to get me to see
# Their point of view from a cat that looked like me
# But he don't walk like me, talk like me or act like me
# And homie started running
# When I asked if he was black like me
# Mastering their thoughts and forgetting our own
# And you wonder why we always feel alone
# From the media to academia
# Hanging brothers like coats
# That's why in their schools
# I take two sets of notes. #
Rappers and MCs, I think, had this sense that they were...
that they were teachers, you know?
That they were schooling you.
When it came to subjects like black history, you know,
and sort of the notion that...
here is the stuff you were never taught in school.
You know, here is who we are, here is where we come from.
But I think that the idea that music can give you a sense of
consciousness and root you in a sense of self is really important.
You know, when I was growing up,
to have a rapper mention something like
Frances Cress Welsing, you know,
or Frantz Fanon, you know,
or one of these sort of great thinkers is...
Malcolm X, you know, it made me think,
"Well, maybe I should check that out.
"Maybe I should read that Malcolm X book, or that Frantz Fanon book.
"I want to know what that rapper is talking about".
I mean, I know that
Public Enemy was really critical to me,
as a person who was a teenager
when their records were coming out.
It was like, here's the guide for, you know,
where you need to go as a black intellectual.
# How low can you go?
# Death row
# What a brother knows
# Once again, back is the incredible
# The rhyme animal, the uncannable...
# D! Public Enemy Number One
# Five-O said, freeze!... #
'Most of us have a teacher who was especially important to us
'at an early age.
'For me, one of those teachers is someone who inspired me from afar -
'Chuck D from Public Enemy.'
I saw nothing but positivity
within the message that Public Enemy brought.
In terms of...I felt like...
This sounds quite silly.
But I felt like Chuck D wanted me to be a better person. You know?
And I feel like he helped make me a better person.
Chuck D was a massive influence on me when I was in my teens.
And, to be honest, I'm feeling a little bit daunted
about going to meet him in his childhood home.
# Never badder than bad, cos the brother is madder than mad
# At the fact that's corrupt like a senator
# Soul on a roll, but you treat it like soap on a rope
# Cos the beats and the lines are so dope
# Listen for lessons I'm saying inside... #
HE LAUGHS Wow.
The walls are covered in all kind of plaques and memorabilia.
There's gold discs, there's gold...
there's gold tapes.
They don't even make tapes any more.
And Spectrum City was the name of the crew before Public Enemy.
They used to do a radio show here in Long Island.
And, yeah, man...
this is it. This is what it is.
The record that first connected with me was
Miuzi Weighs A Ton. Fantastic.
# Rock, get up
# Get down
# Miuzi weighs a ton
# Hold it! #
That tune was earthmoving. Earthmoving.
# It was war they wanted
# And war they got
# But they wilted in the heat
# When Miuzi got hot
# Come on! Get up! #
They made us feel so good about ourselves.
And it was the two sides of the coin.
There was Chuck D and there was Flavor Flav.
He was like, you know, sweetening the pill.
You know they say "a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down"?
Well, that was what Flavor Flav did,
while Chuck D was feeding us this hard information.
And we were eagerly sucking it up.
I'm so emotional right now. I feel like crying, swear down.
I'm feeling very... Give me a minute. Give me a minute.
HE WHISPERS: Oh, fuck!
I ain't ever done this before.
You know, up until Public Enemy,
my favourite rappers had been Run DMC and LL Cool J.
And there's nothing wrong with those guys. I still love those guys.
But Public Enemy came with something else.
They made me...made me feel...
proud of who I was, where I came from, what I had to offer.
No other group had ever done that.
Public Enemy did, though.
HE SIGHS Oh.
has given me so much.
And, within that, on a personal level...
I'm going to burst into tears in a minute.
I feel like Chuck D actually helped change
the direction of my life.
Unashamedly - I'm shedding these tears unashamedly.
These are happy tears.
Cos I feel lucky and thankful to be here.
Hip-hop did this.
Hip-hop changed the direction of my life.
And Chuck D is...
is one of the most important men in my life.
And I say that from the position of a fan
and as a hip-hop fan.
You know, hip-hop is often
just negated as just this childish thing
that these black kids from the ghetto started.
And it's actually so much more.
Yeah. It's so much more.
Oh! I'm done. I'm done.
HE SIGHS HEAVILY Phew!
# I got a letter from the Government the other day
# I opened and read it, it said they were suckers
# They wanted me for their army or whatever
# Picture me givin' a damn - I said never... #
Your music came to me at a time when... It feels like we needed to.
It really set me on a journey, and, in a lot of ways,
changed the direction of my life.
So firstly, I have to say thank you to you for that, but also,
how do YOU feel about it?
I'm supposed to do that.
You don't actually tell a parent who does a great job parenting,
"Oh, man, you're doing an incredible job," the parent would be like...
"I got to do it, and my love is unconditional."
# Well, I'm all in, put it up on the board
# Another rapper shot down from the mouth that roared... #
-Public Enemy No
-..when that came out...
-..it was so revolutionary.
# Like a Tyson bolo
# Make the fly girls wanna have my photo... #
Me and my group of friends, it sent me to the library,
it made me go and look for that Malcolm X book,
-it made me want to find out who Louis Farrakhan is, you know?
We knew what we were doing when we did it. Of course.
Cos we grew up in the '60s, we didn't grow up in the '70s.
Growing up in the '60s,
from assassinations to the Vietnam War, we seen impact,
we saw impact of the resistance against that,
the fight for civil rights.
What we didn't know was what was on the other end of the message,
until we travelled there.
So when we first came over to the UK, it was like, OK, you know,
they're not getting enough of who they are,
and let's talk about the similarities of all us.
Let's talk about things they don't know about us here, so it was
really a message to everyone saying that we're connected.
Hip-hop culture is a thing that ties us together as human beings,
cos of our similarities, and knocks aside the differences.
This is where culture and governments
are diametrically opposed.
Governments want to control people...
..culture wants to be able to free them.
Describing hip-hop as an extension of the Civil Rights Movement
might sound a bit strong, but it makes perfect sense to me.
It does the same job -
bringing people together under the banner of collective action
for social justice.
The music has meant everything to a people
who are considered voiceless.
In the United States of America, if you want to teach black history,
you don't even have to have a history class, just teach them
the music, the musicians and how it was made and what they were saying.
And you got half the job accomplished. My brother.
# Knowing what I know, and while the black bands sweating... #
Public Enemy came about at a time when I was at
a real crossroads in my life.
I wasn't sure what direction it was going to take,
and Public Enemy really helped cement my way of thinking, you know?
It really, as a group,
they really explained to me what I felt and couldn't articulate.
And I think hip-hop does that for a lot of young people,
that's what the MC does when he's really good, they tell the story
that young people have in their hearts but don't know how to say.
And Chuck D did that for me.
Yet hip-hop is often denigrated.
Could that be because hip-hop is somehow seen as...lesser?
You know what sounds like.
Racism is about doubting the mental capabilities of black people.
Physically, we are supposed to be superior, right?
Sexually, athletically, the way we dance and move,
these things are, like, lionised.
So really, we're only talking about white people feeling like
their mental capabilities are greater than black people,
so then it becomes anything that black people do is lesser,
so yeah, this rapping is somehow lesser,
even though a rap song contains
four to five times more words than your average R&B or rock song!
So a lot more thought and writing has to go into it,
but let's not let facts get in the way(!)
# Just like music... #
Hip-hop is the most democratic art form.
You never know where the next household name
is going to come from.
Hip-hop is street music, it comes from the ground up,
so I want to find out what it's like to be part of
the New York hip-hop scene from the bottom.
I'm talking about the foundation of hip-hop,
groups of guys getting together and showing their lyrical skills,
it's what hip-hop was built on, and it's places like this,
Union Square Park, where every Friday the hip-hop kids
come out, they'll get together, cypher,
and put their skills on show.
Let's go and see what kind of skills they got, innit?
# Turning into Marvin Gaye, I do this all day
# Coming out of BK, I bumped on some heads and they fucked with my brains
# Oh, you came up out of Brooklyn, we'll show you how it's lookin'... #
Yo, this is Legendary Cyphers, man.
Anybody can get in, regardless of skill level.
If somebody's not that nice,
they gon' get a couple bars off and somebody gon' cut them off.
# ..verses like this
# Another vocalist, so sick they call me syphilis
# The flow is sweeter than liquorice
# You 'ready seen our shit, like hickory
# You know I'm feeling it every time I start spittin'
# I do it early, I love music, spitting out Erick Sermon
# Like I'm a preacher, understand I had to reach you
# I had to beat you, put me up on a feature
# You already seen, I'm never slacking
# I feel like Poseidon, let's get it crackin'. #
It's the purest platform to be out ever.
Your reputation, your name and all that means nothing out here.
# Causing revolution, burn constitution, mental institution
# Coming through stupid, no, we love this music... #
This is New York.
There's such a proud feeling to know that my city changed the world.
You know what I mean? And that's really real,
particularly because growing up,
all you hear is, "You ain't gon' be shit."
They would tell us,
"Statistically speaking, you'll be dead or in jail by 21." You know?
So I think that despite all these challenges and adversities,
the fact that we birthed something
that changed the world is incredible.
Yo, for real, we free, off the top of the mic, how it happens.
-It's all good. Is it OK if I start, Blackie?
# Latin assassin, make you listen
# I get love from the US to Brixton... #
# So right now I'mma pass to my man, he reppin' London
# Yo, Lord forgive me, I'm trying
# But I'd be lying if I said
# I didn't find the finer things inspiring
# And why did I have to climb out of the environment?
# I had to play with fire, but I desire a higher 'ting
# But they ain't hirin',
# That's why I'm up on a hustle till I'm perspirin'
# Cos I'm a man that's trying to win
# I'm on tour, hear me roar, I'm the Lion King
# I'm the guy your momma told your sister, "Keep your eye on him"
# "Cos he's a keeper"
# Coming live through your speaker
# Me lickle mates, lickle miz, lickle tweeter
# Pour the brown sugar, make the whole thing sweeter... #
Yo, show some love for the Cypher, big up Majesty.
Yo, this is the real thing.
See that, for me, as a hip-hop fan, this is what I came to New York for.
This is where the real vibe of the hip-hop culture is, and I love it.
I'm going back in the circuit.
One of the things I love most about how we report the world
through hip-hop culture is that there is no editorial control.
Once you have proved yourself smart enough,
entertaining enough or original enough to win an audience,
you can report from anywhere, about anything,
with no-one telling you what you can or can't say.
You can't have hip-hop if you give a fuck.
Hip-hop gives no fucks.
If we gave a fuck, we wouldn't have created hip-hop.
# So when you see me on your block with two Glocks
# Screaming, "Fuck the world", like Tupac
# I just don't give a fuck
# Talking that shit behind my back, dirty mackin
# Telling your boys that I'm on crack
# I just don't give a fuck... #
When you have freedom and you don't use the gift of freedom
and tell people how you feel, I think you're doing an injustice
to the people before us who didn't have that freedom.
By not speaking your mind.
But the freedom to not give a fuck means that you can't really complain
when YOU'RE offended, and there's one word I really struggle with.
I'm doing work in Yola, Nigeria.
Young woman asked me, she was innocent, she meant no harm,
she said, "Do you have a problem with me saying to you,
" 'What's up, my N-I-G-G-A?' " In Africa.
I was like, "Dang."
This is when you know something has been totally corrupted,
that even in Africa people are just throwing the word around.
Meanwhile, your ancestors were taken out of Africa and made into
slaves because someone saw them as N-I-G-G-A-S.
And now, we have embraced all of that, that mind-set.
# So I ball so hard motherfuckers wanna fine me
# First niggas gotta find me
# What's 50 grand to a motherfucker like me?
# Can you please remind me? #
A word like "nigger" and everything it historically represents
has no attraction for me.
And I get that black America has a different relationship
with the word historically.
And the problem I find with a lot of mainly American hip-hop
is they don't appreciate the relationship
the rest of the world has with the word.
Someone like Jay-Z and Kanye West making
a record like Niggas In Paris, and you hear it in the supermarket,
on the main road - you hear it everywhere.
Hit record. But actually, what are they saying?
What are they actually saying?
For them, yeah, it may be, "Me and my mates in Paris",
but for the rest of the world, it still means "niggas in Paris".
# That shit cray, that shit cray... #
I get white folk coming up to me asking for N... In Paris.
What do I do?
And they don't know any better, not to say,
"Can I have the Paris song by Jay-Z?"
They don't know that it's not necessarily something
they shouldn't say, even though they know.
But because it's on the radio, on TV, they hear it everywhere,
what are they supposed to do?
It's uncomfortable to see people enjoying that word,
and I know it's not something they should really be saying.
But you can't put a caveat on every song -
-"Yeah, I made this word,
"I made the song, but it's only for people
"in the 'hood to sing that word.
"If you ain't from the 'hood, you don't know me, you can't sing that."
How does that work?
It's all about context.
So when me and my niggas use it, it's totally fine.
When I see my brother, I'm like, "Yo, that's my nigga."
Know what I'm saying?
It also has a lot to do with freaking the language.
That's what hip-hop is about, right?
Not bad meaning bad, but bad meaning good.
We freak the language.
The subversive nature of hip-hop requires it,
and the sort of aggressive nature of hip-hop requires it.
When people talk about recapturing the word, I'm like,
"Come on, you really serious?"
Why are we the only ones trying to turn around certain types of word?
And it's like there's a board somewhere that's like,
"No hip-hop song can be released unless there's at least 3.5 'niggas'
"in that song," so you don't have enough niggas,
go back to the studio and put more in there!
Me, I don't have a context to use it in.
I don't call anybody I know it, I don't expect to be called it.
It's a difficult one.
It's a valuable marker for our generation, or for this moment
in American history, the people who will say it
and the people who won't say it.
And there's strong groups on both sides,
not necessarily generational, and the rappers who put their flag
in the ground and can say "nigga" in the right way...
It feels good, it's part of hip-hop, man.
# Cos I'm the nigga
# The nigga, nigga, like how you figure? #
Why do we feel the need to claim it? I don't want it.
Let it stand as what it is and let no-one be allowed to use it.
Just because it's another black guy saying it
doesn't make it any less offensive to me.
# But at least a nigga-nigga rich
# I be fuckin' broads like I be fuckin' bored... #
The word is poison to the majority of black people on this planet.
And even to the ones who say they use it as a term of endearment,
they'll tell you, "But I spell it with an A on the end."
Well, you may SPELL it with an A on the end,
but you still say it with an -ER.
I don't want to give anybody the opportunity to come and use
that word in my presence and think it's OK.
It's not OK. It never will be for someone like me.
# But this long-dick nigga ain't for the long-talking, I beast
# I love bad bitches, that's my fucking problem... #
I know this kind of language and imagery can make people look
at hip-hop in a negative light.
And I'll be honest, there's another subject that can get people
fired up about hip-hop, and that's the portrayal of women.
# How many licks does it take till you get to the centre of the...?
# Yes, I got to know
# How many licks does it take till you get to the centre of the...?
# Tell me... #
In the '90s,
Lil' Kim embodied the place women occupied in hip-hop culture.
A strong female artist using highly sexualised imagery
to get to the top.
# This verse goes out to my niggas in jail
# Beating they dicks to the XXL...Magazine
# You like how I look in the aqua green?
# Get your Vaseline, roll some weed with some tissue and close your eyes
# Then imagine your tongue in between my thighs
# Jailer, open up
# Cell Block Eight... #
It's complex, it's complicated.
Firstly, I don't want to point the finger at hip-hop and say
hip-hop is doing something that society is not doing.
But... But that's no...
Two wrongs don't make a right, as they say. In a lot of ways,
hip-hop has its foot on the neck of women, you know?
It's not showing a lot of love.
Women have had to historically fight for their voices in this culture,
in this industry, just like they've had to do in the larger world.
# Oh, my gosh, look at her butt
# Oh, my gosh, look at her butt... #
Women have felt the need, for whatever reason,
be it Nicki Minaj or Lil' Kim, that, "In this sexist world,
"do I have to be basically be from the neck down
"in order to even be noticed?"
We don't ask dudes to do that, but we expect the women to do it.
And then we diss her for doing it and call her names.
# My anaconda don't
# My anaconda don't want none unless you got buns, hun... #
Pretty much everything in life uses sex to sell,
so when hip-hop became this huge commercial commodity,
the fact they used sex to help sell it is no big surprise.
There is a better hustle for us. The naked hustle ain't always it.
I never wanna see anyone degrade themselves,
compromise their integrity for anything.
Not for no man, not for anything materialistic,
not for a better lifestyle.
Know what I'm saying? There's other ways to go about it.
# U-N-I-T-Y, that's-a unity
# Love a black man from infinity
# Who you callin' a bitch? #
Back in the 1990s, women rappers DID find
a different way to go about it, with some
of the biggest names coming together under the banner of Ladies First.
When you had Queen Latifah, Monie Love, Yo-Yo, MC Lyte
and that whole Ladies First movement,
when you had that it was more like,
"This is who we are, respect us for who we are."
That's Queen Latifah empowering sisters, educating brothers.
There's a legacy there, the best MC in hip-hop ever was a female,
IS a female. And that's Lauryn Hill.
# My friend, come again
# Guys, you know you better watch out... #
You show me, in the history of hip-hop, one or two
or three albums better than The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
Seriously, from every angle imaginable - musically,
lyrically, she could sing and she could flow with any dude out there.
What IS it like as a woman
navigating the male-dominated hip-hop world?
Let's face it, the female perspective
has been missing from my journey so far.
Luckily, my mate Estelle made it big in the American hip-hop world,
and she didn't take her clothes off to do it.
# Take me on a trip, I'd like to go someday
# Take me to New York, I'd love to see LA
# I really want to
# Come kick it with you
# You'll be my American boy
# Tell 'em wagwan, blud... #
Female-wise, who were the ladies who inspired you to say,
"I can do that"?
You had Foxy Brown and Lil' Kim, and for me,
it wasn't about them being naked, it was just the words...
They could spit!
Right, they said something that resonated with me,
that made me feel good as a black woman, as a young black girl.
# I'm the most critically acclaimed rapstress in the game
# Coast to coast, stashed the gat in holster girl
# Dark skinned, Christian Dior poster girl
# Mo'rockin Timbs chick, and the Gucci loafer girl... #
Did you ever feel pressure to sex it up?
I always felt like I'm from London, this is what we do, is we dress.
So I'm good. I don't have to be out here arse-naked,
you're going to pay attention to my words,
and if you need something to look at, well, I look fresh.
So look at that.
There's nothing wrong with being sexy, and this is just as a woman.
Be as sexy as you want, but know that you have to keep that up,
and as tight as you get keeping it up on a regular day
for your dude, you have to keep it up for the whole world.
You will get bored of it, and the minute you get bored of it,
there goes your career.
What do you say to people who say, "This whole thing
"is just misogynistic, there's no respect shown"?
How do you feel about that?
It kind of is true, it's misogynistic as hell!
So how do you balance that out with being a fan of the music?
You just listen to what you want to listen to and don't to the rest.
# Missy be puttin' it down, I'm the hottest 'round
# I told y'all mother...
# Y'all can't stop me now
# Listen to me now, I'm lastin' 20 rounds
-# And if you want me
# Then come and get me now... #
I fully believe that women should be able to
do what they want with their bodies.
I'm not one of these girls that's like, "No, cover it up!"
No, once you are past a certain age, it's your choice.
# The embezzler, chrome treasurer
# The U-N-O competitor
# I'm ten steps ahead of ya
# I'm a leader, y'all on some followin' shit
# Comin' in this game on some modelling shit
# Bitches suck cock just to get to the top
# I put 100% in every line I drop
# It's the Q to the B, with the M-O-B-B
# Queensbridge, Brooklyn and we D-E-E-P... #
So what does hip-hop look like if you take women out?
It looks like a very one-dimensional cockfight.
# When you bump this, drugs to your eardrum... #
Looking at the world through the lens of hip-hop,
I do think Estelle is right.
Hip-hop can often look like a big cockfight,
and there was a point in the '90s when it became
this real testerone-fuelled game of one-upmanship.
It used to be, "Look how fly my trainers are."
Then it was, "I've got a plane, I've got a yacht."
That presentation became the overriding thing,
the bling lifestyle.
In hip-hop, it's all about the Benjamins, baby.
# Save money for the drinks, I'm about to buy the bar... #
The music and the culture has gone to this point of
huge pop culture dominance.
It's like this huge behemoth, but still, at its core,
are a bunch of kids who yesterday lived in shit
and today they're swimming in champagne.
Imagine being a 17-year-old kid trying to navigate that divide,
that change in your life.
It's not an easy thing.
This is new money.
You could read about this in The Great Gatsby,
about how people act with new money.
New money looks a lot different than old money.
If you have money for years and generations of money,
you're not so flashy, you know, you do other things with your money.
Hip-hop has always had a "fake it till you make it" ethos.
The cars may be rented, the plane might be a prop,
but it all looked great, and lots of those artists went from
looking like they had a lot of money to ACTUALLY making a lot of money.
The idea is always to push
the ideal of, "I'm bigger, badder, richer than YOU."
That's the idea.
We do talk about money a lot,
but who doesn't?
Where is the conversation that money doesn't get spoken about in?
Who's having it?
Maybe people who have money.
# Cash rules everything around me
# C.R.E.A.M, get the money dolla dolla bill, ya'll... #
Hip-hop is obsessed with money
because America is obsessed with money. Hip-hop was born in America.
Hip-hop is simply the latest cultural manifestation
of American values.
Money in hip-hop represents freedom,
the ability to be able to take care and provide for your family.
The reason why I live in this shitty house, in this shitty apartment,
and on this side of town and not in this nice house with grass and...
is why? Cos of money, right?
The reason I don't have any money is because my momma had no money.
Why does my momma have nothing? Cos her momma ain't had no money.
Why did her momma have no money? Cos her momma ain't had no money.
How come her momma ain't had money?
Oh, cos she was a slave.
So black people inherited the legacy of slavery, which is poverty,
so money represents this vehicle of freedom.
# California love... #
MUSIC: California Love by 2Pac
A handful of key players took the opportunity hip-hop gave them
to generate huge amounts of wealth.
Those people became known as the hip-hop moguls.
# California knows how to party... #
I'm just on the way to go and meet Russell Simmons,
who's arguably the first real hip-hop mogul.
He's the guy behind Def Jam Records alongside Rick Rubin.
They're the guys who really brought
this commercial hip-hop to the world.
# City of Compton... #
Russell's been there from the beginning
and showing a lot of the guys who came after them
just how you can build a brand.
Russell was the first to do that.
I know, I know, I'm talking about a New York mogul
and playing a West Coast anthem,
but we are in LA and I had to get 2Pac in somewhere.
-Victor. Victor Syng.
-Glad to meet you. My name's Rodney P.
My pleasure, my pleasure.
Russell must be an important man or something, huh?
He's the original hip-hop mogul,
so we're definitely glad to get an opportunity to speak to him.
-He's every bit of that.
-Well, let me show you around a little bit.
# ..I robbed Liberace
# It's all good from Diego to tha Bay
# Your city is tha bomb if your city makin' pay
# Throw up a finger if ya feel the same way... #
This film we're making is about looking at the world
through the lens of hip-hop.
As someone who has really been a part of bringing money to hip-hop
and hip-hop often being looked at as money-obsessed -
do you think that's a fair thing to say?
I mean, materialism -
all they say is, they want the shit Americans are selling.
The stuff that is high-end and aspirational
equals the American Dream.
That's what hip-hop says they want, a lot of hip-hop says that.
Some people are not that interested in it,
..wanting a Rolls-Royce or some obnoxious car, a big house,
every American talks about that.
They're looking at Donald Trump like he's a genius
and nobody is more obsessed with money
and talking about how wealthy they are and buying stuff they don't need
than Donald Trump.
I wouldn't put that on hip-hop.
I'd put that on the American psyche
and its effect on hip-hop is that expression.
I would say a lot of people who embrace hip-hop
see business as an opportunity and an alternative
to whatever's in the street.
In other words, we didn't have a culture
that promoted entrepreneurship
except for drug dealing.
That's how I came to be a business guy, through selling drugs -
but finding hip-hop was safer, it was cool still,
put money in my pocket
so I could buy bullshit,
so that experience is old now. The new one is now that we have people
like Jay Z, like Puffy,
like Dr Dre, who are the image of what we can be, you know,
without compromising - having an idea and going out and selling it.
The sponsorship deal Russell pulled off with Adidas
for his brother's group Run-DMC
was a watershed moment in hip-hop.
Compared to his earlier life in the streets,
it must have seemed like an easy hustle.
Run-DMC rapped about the Adidas sneakers
and where they had been and what they represented.
# I stepped on stage, at Live Aid
# The people gave and the poor got paid
# Out of speakers I did speak
# I wear my sneakers but I'm not a sneak... #
The fact is that rappers chose products that they liked
and they did things,
they rapped about those products and made those products more popular.
# ..around together, rhyme forever
# And we won't be mad when worn in bad weather
# My Adidas... #
Russell paved the way for other entrepreneurs
to turn the skills they learned in the streets
into legitimate business empires.
# Y'all know me, still the same OG
# But I been low-key... #
Dr Dre was once part of NWA,
who we met earlier saying "fuck the police" -
but in 2014,
after selling his headphone brand Beats By Dre to Apple,
singer Tyrese posted an online video in which Dre boldly claimed
to be hip-hop's first billionaire.
They need to update the Forbes list.
Shit just changed!
-In a big way.
First billionaire in hip-hop
right here from the motherfucking West Coast, believe it.
Oh! Oh, shit!
# I told 'em all, all them little gangstas
# Who you think helped mould 'em all
# Now you wanna run around talking 'bout guns like I ain't got none
# What, you think I sold 'em all? #
Hip-hop is now associated with such huge wealth that Forbes Magazine,
the Bible of the super-rich, and the creator of the Forbes rich list,
now publishes an annual hip-hop rich list.
Hip-hop is not just a musical genre, it's a lifestyle,
so in addition to music-related things like Beats headphones,
you also have things that have nothing to do at all with music.
Akon says that he owns diamond mines.
It's a pretty broad spectrum of holdings.
Who do you think is going to be the first hip-hop billionaire?
At the very top, you have Diddy, Dr Dre and Jay Z and they're all
a little over half a billion, up to three quarters of a billion,
far and away the top three in the race to one billion,
then after that, a long drop to Birdman, around 100-150 million,
then it's a mix - we've got Drake in there, Drake is the closest,
but there's some other names.
Eminem, Pharrell, people like that are doing pretty well.
# Mmm, yeah... #
Puffy, also known as Diddy,
currently sits at the top of the hip-hop rich list.
It's Revolt TV,
it's AQUAhydrate water, it's Sean John, it's Bad Boy,
it's Ciroc vodka - that's a huge part of his net worth,
which is about 750 million.
# It's big pimpin', baby... #
For Jay Z, it's Roc Nation, Armand de Brignac, Tidal.
Tidal's a really interesting one.
In a lavishly choreographed presentation in 2015,
some of the world's biggest stars
signed up to Jay Z's latest acquisition,
and artist-owned music streaming platform.
He bought it for 56 million
and took it up to now three million subscribers.
Those are numbers that Wall Street or Silicon Valley investors
would put a multiple on.
A year from now, it could be gone,
or it could be sold to Apple for 500 million.
So, is Dr Dre really a billionaire?
The final deal went down at three billion.
He owned, I think, 20-25% and then you've got to figure in taxes.
As it stands, we've got him at 710 million, not too bad at all.
Not too bad for a producer who made his money with gangsta rap,
but I think when the potential rewards are so vast,
it creates a conflict between hip-hop as art
and hip-hop as a money-spinner.
# Hittin' off licks in the bando... #
You have the hip-hop industry and you have the hip-hop community.
Those are two different entities
working for two different missions and goals and purposes.
You've got the hip-hop industry,
a billion-dollar industry,
and it is designed to make money off of hip-hop culture.
That's what it does.
The people who control the hip-hop industry
aren't necessarily in the hip-hop community.
In fact, they might not even give a shit
about the hip-hop community at all, you know what I mean?
Then you have the hip-hop community
that cares vehemently about the culture,
that cares vehemently about, passionately about,
the direction of the people.
It cares about oppression and Black Lives Matter
and all of these things,
but that's the community.
You have two different entities, and that creates conflict.
In the '80s, the primary consumer was black people in urban centres.
Public Enemy sold a lot,
NWA sold a lot, right?
People who were talking, who were somewhat intellectual,
NWA talking about political issues,
even though they were tough and wild too,
but smart rappers could have a career.
# People think they diss my person by stating I'm darkly pack
# I know this so I point at Q-Tip
-# And he states...
-"Black is Black"... #
You get into the '90s,
the dominant consumer is the young white male, 15-25,
and they have made a choice for something that is the opposite
of what we were choosing when an urban black audience was the core.
# Rollin' down the street, smokin' indo
# Sippin' on gin and juice
# Laid back
# With my mind on my money and my money on my mind... #
That is the end of Afrocentrism
and the end of sort of what we call "conscious rap", really,
and the rise even more of drug rap and you saw more rappers who say,
"I was a drug dealer," whether they were or were not.
"I was a drug dealer - that's my persona."
Hip-hop culture was created to be about life,
to be about possibilities, opportunities.
Like I've said many times,
make something out of nothing, winning on your own terms.
What's hip-hop culture? The DJ, MC, graffiti writing, the dance element.
The fifth element of hip-hop - knowledge, that's the culture.
The industry is about death.
Death of the spirit, death of the mind...
..death of a culture.
You know, taking the MC and separating her or him away
from the other four elements, like the DJ doesn't matter any more,
the graffiti writer doesn't matter any more,
the b-boy or b-girl, the dancers don't matter,
the knowledge doesn't matter.
The industry is about hyper-materialism, hyper-capitalism.
The industry is about sex and violence
and drugs and this ridiculous overuse of the N-word
and a ridiculous disrespect for women,
a disrespect for gay sisters and brothers,
gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender sisters and brothers.
It becomes a mirror of the ugliness of the larger society,
that's the industry.
# Need a brick, miss my free throw
# Stay away
# I'm in love, just like Ne-Yo
# Bustin' shots... #
Why all of a sudden does everybody look like a gangster, a thug, man?
All of us are gangsters and thugs? Are you telling me that blackness,
cos that's what hip-hop really represents, people of colour,
even though it belongs to everyone,
but still the face and the body of hip-hop
are the same people of colour who created it.
Are you going to tell me that the only example of who we are
is we got to be gangsters and thugs and murderers and thieves and pimps
and prostitutes and swinging from poles?
That's it? That's all we are?
Come on, man. You know what I mean?
# I don't know what you heard about me
# But a bitch can't get a dollar out of me... #
I always felt that there was a major difference
between what I love about hip-hop
and what I see represented commercially about hip-hop.
I understand the forces in play -
hip-hop is a really good tool to sell stuff.
I get it.
Lots of people who don't necessarily come from the places
where the culture began now love the culture and love the music,
they love this rap music stuff, I get it.
So I understand why, in some ways, change is inevitable,
but we have to respect the root and we have to respect the core
and we have to respect the culture and that's what for me
is often missing and it is a big loss, because the culture brings
more empowerment and more education and more spirituality.
These are the things that the culture brings with it.
# That I'm a motherfucking P-I-M-P
# You need to switch over and ride with a star
# It'll get you far... #
I do worry that hip-hop is seen as some kind of money-making machine,
when I know it can be so powerful culturally and spiritually,
but I guess it's not as simple as having to come down
on one side or the other.
The world seen through the lens of hip-hop
has room for the body and the soul.
# Bitch, don't kill my vibe
# I can feel your energy from two planets away
# I got my drink, I got my music, I will share it but today I'm yelling
# Bitch, don't kill my vibe... #
If anyone really wants to understand post-Dr King America
and religion and spirituality,
I recommend you spend some time studying hip-hop.
# Look inside of your soul and you can find out it never exist... #
Hip-hop was my church, was my masjid,
was my mosque, was my synagogue.
That's what I worship at.
# I could say that I like a challenge... #
We've constantly talked about good and evil, spirituality,
what does the world look like after I leave this world,
that kind of stuff.
We've talked about life and death throughout hip-hop.
HE SHOUTS COMMAND
Religion and spirituality is so much intertwined with hip-hop,
whether it's Kanye doing Jesus Walks...
# Jesus walks
# God, show me the way because the Devil's tryin' to break me down
# Jesus walks with... #
..whether it's Mos Def, who's a devout Muslim...
# Even if I'm locked up North... #
..whether it's the Wu-Tang Clan, right, and the Five-Percent Nation.
# That's how it is, I could be your Noah... #
The Five-Percent Nation, also known as the Nation of Gods and Earths
and not to be confused with the Nation of Islam,
is a belief system which shares a deep cultural bond with hip-hop.
Like hip-hop, it was born in America's black inner cities
in the 1970s and many hip-hop artists subscribe to its mission
to promote knowledge of self
and spiritual enlightenment.
The whole concept of the Five-Percent Nation is this,
that 85% of the population out here is deaf, dumb and blind,
they don't know what's going on, right?
Then there's 10% of the population that knows that
and is manipulating that.
And there's the 5% who know who the true living god is,
they know what's up and they're here
to teach and enlighten the rest of the 85.
That's where the term Five-Percent comes from.
# Allahu Akbar... #
Lord Jamar of the much-respected New York rap group Brand Nubian
is one of the leading representatives
of the Five-Percent Nation within the hip-hop community.
# Goddamn right, the L-O-R-D, J-A-M-A-R
# Says peace and Allah U Akbar
# Back like a motherfuckin' head to crack
# Brand Nubian tracks are filled with black facts... #
Exactly what is the philosophy of the Five-Percent Nation?
It teaches that black man is God,
he's the original man on this planet Earth and that 5%
of the people on this planet Earth know the truth and teach that.
So it's literally, "We are gods"?
It's literal, it's a metaphor, it's everything.
God is not necessarily just a physical thing
and we in the Five-Percent Nation represent, we liken ourselves...
The black man is likened to the sun, the woman is likened to the Earth.
So when it's like, "What up, sun?",
it's S-U-N, not S-O-N.
See, a lot of people don't know that.
I wanted to understand how the Five-Percent Nation
Just a lot of terminology and a lot of philosophy, even, of hip-hop.
The Five-Percent Nation has embroidered itself into that.
Even what they called b-boy stance,
that comes from the Five-Percent Nation,
cos we do something called...
You stand on your Truth or Square,
you have your right hand over your left,
you'd have your feet,
like, a 45-degree angle.
We're up in the jams and we're standing like that.
If you're God, you know what that means, you see?
But if you're 85, you just think that's just a cool guy standing,
that's just how a cool guy stands.
You see? Then it ended up being a "b-boy" stance,
but really that was the gods standing in their Truth or Square.
# I guess I'm like the Verbalizer for the fact I'm moving blackwards
# This Asiatic black man is a dog spelled backwards
# The maker, the owner, the cream of the planet Earth
# Father of civilisation God of the universe... #
The hip-hop was meant to empower the alpha males
who felt powerless at the time, who had no voice.
You know, who could identify with certain music,
but it really wasn't saying it
in that raw, unadulterated street, black, alpha way.
So who would do something that's customised for the black alpha male
but other black alpha males?
We were just supposed to be forgotten, you know what I mean?
We're definitely not supposed to express ourselves
other than in anger,
or, you know, making money on the street and all of that type of shit.
We weren't supposed to vocally express ourselves
and talk about how we saw things.
No-one expected that to happen.
Make no mistake about it, this is the black man's art form.
This is a black art, and although
all kind of people around the world can do it,
and some people are technically proficient at it...
..it's still not theirs.
This is still ours.
I could cook Italian food all fucking day
and be a master at it - it's still Italian food.
It still belongs to the Italians.
Is the Five-Percent Nation hip-hop's religion?
I don't know if I'd say religion. I mean...
we put a spirituality into hip-hop, we put certain morals into hip-hop,
you know, certain pride as being, you know,
especially young black males, um...
I think that's what we do. We help guide hip-hop...
..but we're definitely not the religion of hip-hop.
For a black man to stand up and say,
"I am God,"
is almost a revolutionary idea.
When you think about the history of black people in America,
to go from being the lowest of the low to say,
"When I look in the mirror, I see God,"
to me, that's a beautiful thing.
But I didn't agree with everything that he said.
This culture that we absolutely created
has gone on and touched and infected and empowered the globe
and we should be proud of that.
We shouldn't be trying to hold it
and grab it and keep it to ourselves.
We should be saying,
"Look at this beautiful thing that we have - come and share."
I really respect his honesty and his ability
to be able to just say it how he sees it.
I consider that to be very hip-hop.
There is one Five-Percent Nation member I really want to meet,
and he happens to be the best MC of all time.
'Rakim didn't show up last time I arranged to meet him,
'but this time, he's here before I am.'
-Good to meet you, my brother.
-No doubt, no doubt.
# It's to my real ill niggas, heavyweight hitters
# Dough getters fifty ways to make figures
# My niggas, that come on the spot to feel sisters
# Like they hear real spitters and kids on the zigga-ziggas... #
One of my favourite tunes of all time,
one of the Eric B and Rakim tunes, In The Ghetto,
where you start with the line, "Planet Earth was my place of birth,
"Known to be the sole controller of the universe."
The rapping that I do, I had to work hard for that.
You know, I play saxophone.
One of my favourite, uh, saxophonists was John Coltrane.
And there was this joint, My Favourite Things.
And in the song, man, he's, like,
soloing through most of it, man, and...
..it just hit me, like, yo, that's your style, right there.
# Me and Eric B was coolin' at the Palladium
# Seen a all world covered girl I said, "Hey, lady, I'm
# Sorry if you're in a rush
# Don't let me hold ya up
# Or intervene or interrupt but... #
You know, I came up on Cold Crush 4,
Grandmaster Caz, Furious Five, Melle Mel, Treacherous Three,
Kool Moe Dee - that was my favourite MC.
# Telling everybody hanging out on the block
# It's time to wake up and check the clock
# Punch it
# I go to work... #
And I remember I heard this rhyme he said,
and it just made me look at MCing a little different.
He said, uh,
# Somebody like Kool Moe Dee
# MCs rate me, at the top of the key... #
something like that.
# MCs who suck, you're outta luck
# I got a whole book of rhymes and I ain't no duck
# When it come to creativity
# Can't none of you MCs fuck with me
# I got a brain like Dr Spock
# Huh-huh, get down with the Moe Dee Rock! #
I heard that shit, I was like...
# Each rhyme's a dissertation
# You want to know my occupation
# I get paid to rock the nation
# I go to work... #
What were you like before you were Rakim?
Like, what's life like,
when you're listening to these early rap records?
Coming up in the hood, being at the parks and, you know, sneaking into
the basement parties, getting kicked out of the, you know,
the motorcycle club downtown when they have hip-hop nights
because, you know, I'm too young.
But they knew I could rhyme,
so they sneaked me in half the time, you know what I mean?
That's the microphone feeling that's coming to life.
You know what I mean? Let him in!
# Cos I grabbed the mic and try to say "Yes, y'all!"
# They tried to take it and say that I'm too small
# Cool, cos I don't get upset
# I kick a hole in the speaker pull the plug, then I jet... #
I had my first gun charge when I was 11, 12 years old.
That's why, you know, I knew that I needed something, started studying
Islam, which prepared me to get in, you know, this hip-hop world, man.
# ..vocabulary, your verses you're stuck in
# The mic is a Drano volcanoes erupting... #
So, how did studying Islam affect you?
It made me a lot more conscious,
it made me a lot more, uh...
..creative, it, it...
..it, you know, it centred me, it made me a better man.
So, of course, I think, when anybody, um...
..you know, looks to something greater than themselves
to, uh, you know, see them through, man,
I think that's a consciousness within itself,
if it's Islam, if it's Christianity, if it's Buddhism,
you know, whatever it is,
as long as they know that there is something higher than them.
And I think that just makes us better, you know, people,
as a whole.
As I got a little wiser,
I picked a name that suited what I believed in, you know what I mean?
And Rakim, you know, Ra means Sun God,
Kim was another word for Egypt,
before it was called Egypt it was called Kimet,
and, you know, I put my name together from that.
I didn't know at the time that Rakim also means writer.
So, you know, things happen for a reason,
and I think I was blessed with, uh, having reason, man.
Hip-hop culture sent me, as a young man, to the library.
How important is it that artists actually take responsibility
for the words coming out of their mouths?
Well, the duty that I've been through, when hip-hop got,
you know, real...
real, you know, they called it gangsta,
gangsta rap, when it got real gangsta,
it was like, yo, I can't do that.
Like, they don't expect Rakim to, now,
after I've been telling you to, you know, be conscious and...
you know, be a better person and all these things,
now telling you I'm about to come up in your house, pull that thing out,
you know, rob the crib, tie the babies up, you know what I mean?
I'm like... I don't make that kind of music, you know what I mean?
I listen to it, I don't have a problem with it,
but I don't make that kind of music, man.
And no disrespect, but I'm going to take my music and I'm going
to go knock on the door next door.
We've spoken to a lot of people and your name always comes up,
and about how much you've done for hip-hop.
But the question I want to ask now is, what has hip-hop done for you?
It gave me a voice, and, um...
saved my life, it made my life, um,
you know, a lot better.
You know, I'm proud of who I am.
I get around certain people sometimes
and they might say, "Yo, what do you do?"
And I might say, "I'm a musician."
You know, you don't wanna tell certain people, "I'm a rapper,"
-you know what I mean?
-Because of the connotations that come with it.
So, it's like, you know, at this point, you know,
I'm real proud to say, yeah, I'm an MC, man.
I'm in the hip-hop business.
You know what I mean?
# There it is
# Hardcore, real ill
# I'm internationally known when I be on the mic
# Hardcore, real ill
# I'm internationally known, yo
# Hardcore... #
We are asking the question,
what does the world look like through the lens of hip-hop?
And one of the people who helped create that vision was Rakim.
It is strange for me to hear someone like Rakim say,
"When people ask me, I say I'm a musician,"
because he doesn't want to say he's a rapper,
because of the connotations that brings.
But actually, that's really fucked up.
Because as a rapper, as an MC, as a lyricist and a wordsmith,
he is the greatest.
I consider myself lucky to have seen hip-hop evolving from
something people are hesitant to admit they are involved with,
to become a cultural powerhouse with influence that goes to the very top.
Something that Tupac said to me when I was at Vibe, he said,
"Me and Snoop, we've got five or six million listeners
"buying our CDs and records.
"Imagine if we turned them into a political army. That's power!"
When Barack Obama became the American President in 2008,
his secret weapons were social media,
youth culture and the power of hip-hop.
When you look at the ascension of Barack Obama,
there were elements of hip-hop that helped him to get elected, for sure.
Who you voting for?
I said, who you voting for?
I went on the road with Jay-Z,
Beyonce, Mary J Blige,
Puffy and Kevin Liles.
Footage of hip-hop stars speaking at rallies helped Obama's
campaign reach tens of millions of young voters.
The President's agenda was our agenda, there's no question.
And we travelled from city to city to city, promoting his agenda.
Yes, we can.
Thank you, and may God bless the United States of America.
Has the ghetto changed since Barack Obama became president,
anywhere in America? No, man.
You know, have poor people stopped being poor? No.
And what we need to understand
is that politicians don't change the world, people do.
The President himself recognised the power of hip-hop
to communicate a message eloquently.
The thing about hip-hop today is its spark.
I mean, you know, it's insightful.
And, you know, the way that they can communicate
a complex message in a very short space is remarkable.
That's why hip-hop is so powerful.
And that's why some people try to make it seem like
it's not powerful, like it's just entertainment,
because they understand the power of it.
Hip-hop can change, it has changed the world, but it has the ability
to mobilise young people in a way that nothing else can.
# ..with no honour
# My raps ignite the people like Obama
# The karma of the street says needs and takes
# Sometimes we find peace in beats and breaks
# Put the bang in the back so the seats can shake
# Rebel Cadillac music for the people's sake
# The people... #
For the last stop of my journey,
I'm meeting someone who really embodies the evolution of hip-hop.
Kevin Liles is at the top of the hip-hop tree.
I found him at the offices of his label, 300 Records,
listening to a demo from someone just starting out.
# It's all for the night make sure you keep the light on... #
Like the culture itself,
Kevin has come from the streets to having a voice with real clout.
I remember, I get a call, and Barack said,
"Hey, I'm coming to New York,
"I'm making a run for the President of the United States."
I dropped the phone, I had never received a call from somebody
to say that, "I want you to know, before I tell anybody else..."
When you talk about hip-hop and power,
I think hip-hop equals power, I think power is hip-hop.
I've seen it from the perspective of going from a street corner,
to the corner office, then to the Oval Office.
And you're talking about a kid who grew up in hip-hop.
You got a little D'Angelo in there!
Just do me a favour, and for our culture,
make sure it's not just a record, make it a movie.
Live it, make sure people around you live it,
make sure anything that's influenced by people should feel different,
not just about hearing the song, but what it means to you.
Hip-hop is in everything that we do. As long as the spirit is there.
I think it's by any means necessary in a lot of cases,
I think it's, if you don't have it, don't go without - create it.
You know, put yourself... empower yourself.
Hip-hop is a way of life. I don't think it's just a music.
That message you were talking about,
we got to make sure that that message gets across.
I think it would cut through a lot of the clutter out there right now.
Like, I'm already right there.
Thank you, good to meet you. Bless you. It was good, man.
Thank you, guys. Appreciate it.
'I tell everybody, hip-hop saved my life.'
Where I'm from, at 16 years old,
you're supposed to be on drugs, in jail, or dead.
So, you're talking about being able to change the statistic
into a success story.
I can't... That's all hip-hop to me.
Meeting Kevin really nails for me the journey of this culture,
which has come from nothing and is now so powerful.
Let's go take a walk.
It makes me realise how important it is
for hip-hop culture to be recognised and celebrated.
I always look at the world through the perspective of hip-hop,
and I think, in these uncertain times,
we all need to hear the message of hip-hop, now more than ever.
SHE RAPS IN ARABIC
You know, globally, hip-hop still does for me what it does best.
Which is give a voice to the people.
You could be anywhere on the planet and find young people
using hip-hop to empower themselves and get their point across.
# Emi lon so leko bi okada Jasper
# Eyin old school Isuzu Tiger
# Gone are the days t'olopa ma'n gba fiber... #
Now, looking at the world through the lens of hip-hop is like
looking at it through any other lens.
There's going to be lots of differences
and lots of similarities.
But there's one thing that I think is unique to this point of view,
and that is that people who have nothing matter,
and the stories of the voiceless are important and deserve to be heard.
The question is, are we prepared to listen?
# It's the L-O-N-D-O-N in case you were wondering
# London has never been the one thing it comes in
# Many different shapes and forms it's all things to all men
# Paupers and kings, they all blend in the city where the Thames is
# The inner cities where most of me and my friends live
# Is what they call the endses
# You try now, the rewards can be endless
# If you hustle and your hustle is relentless
# But listen, on these here Roman roads
# Is the souls of the people they sold, they're called old money
# And built parliament and bought armaments
# To settle all arguments they built an empire, yo
# They all thought that was a boost for them
# But them chickens coming back home... #