Words: Caiza Andresen
Friends! It’s April 2020 and we’re all stuck in our homes. I’ve been trying to start the Emily Oberg fitness program for over a week now, but somehow I couldn’t. These days I’m spending most of my time with really concentrated work from the home office and quite satisfying attempts at Fit Pics. I also use all streaming platforms. And I have recently started listening to vinyl again and at the moment I have to emphasize how much I love Hip-Hop. I have a memory for every vinyl of mine that has shaped me. So to get the full real flash, I dared to watch five Netflix documentaries and now I’ll tell you my thoughts about them.
© HBO / Netflix
Check out the trailer
Quite a stupid name but man – what a gem! This great documentary originates from the HBO studios, which is already a guarantee of quality. The series has been around for four years with four seasons of four episodes. The whole thing is relatively chronological, starting with the holy trinity of Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash in the South Bronx. I won’t go into all episodes now, but there are definitely some that stand out for me:
»New York State of Mind« (Season 2 – Episode 4)
It’s about Nas. I love Nas, and anyone who claims that »Illmatic« is not a masterpiece can shut up. In this episode you get an insight into the process of creating this milestone of popular culture. Listening to Q-Tip talk about how he and other producers played each other’s beats for Nas gives you goose bumps. No kidding.
»Pass the Mic« (Season 3 – Episode 3)
I have always considered myself to be very real and heard a lot of Rawkus. I still guard the »I Rawkus NY« Tee that Savas wears in the »That Smut« Video of Smut Peddlaz like a treasure. Speaking of King of Rap, or West Berlin Masculine: In this episode we continue to the Goodlife Cafe in LA and after consciously listening to Freestyle Fellowship I finally understand Taktloss even more.
»Bounce to this« (Season 4 – Episode 1)
In my youth, I was always strongly influenced by the East Coast and West Coast and only found access to Dirty South via Crunk. This episode centers around Master P and No Limit Records. I did have the »Ice Cream Man« album and I digged it, but it didn’t go any deeper than that. But later I developed a great fascination for the South, so this episode fits perfectly. I just love to see how guys from the hood earn money. And later on, when it was about Cash Money Records and the fact that the Hot Boyz are just a boy band, I was hooked. My favorite part, though, is the one where Mannie Fresh talks about his father who was the biggest Hip-Hop DJ in his town. Cool side fact: In the past every hit song was a dance at the same time. Will be dancing the »Gangster Walk« soon for sure.
»The Southern Lab« (Season 4 – Episode 2)
We’re off to Texas. It’s about codeine (shout out to Kai Pflaume) and rap. DJ Screw delivers the perfect soundtrack for opiate abuse to forget all the shit with his »Chopped n Screwed« tapes. Tragic and incredibly fascinating.
And now on to…
© HBO / Netflix
Watch the trailer here
»Rapture« deals with the life of a Hip-Hop star, his private environment and his family. There are episodes with T.I., Just Blaze, G-Eazy, Logic, Nas, Large Professor and some others. Although I love »No Limit« from G-Eazy (just because of the Cardi B part actually), I would never watch a documentary about him. So I started with T.I. Just Blaze looks very good too. The episode about T.I. deals with his activities in the Black Lives Matter movement. In order to become aware of his influence over others we accompany T.I. to a meeting with Harry Belafonte and learn more about the civil rights movement. Very interesting, very inspiring, unfortunately not as much Hip-Hop reference as I would have wished for.
Still, Just Blaze and Nas are a must.
»The Defiant Ones«
© HBO / Netflix
Check out the trailer here
HBO. Directed by Allen Hughes (»Manace II Society«). Dr. Dre. Jimmy Iovine. And as guests: Bruce Springsteen, Puff Daddy, Trent Reznor, Ice Cube, Eminem, Tom Petty and the goddess Stevie Nicks! All in one documentary, or four episodes to be exact. The series deals with the partnership of the legendary Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine, the founder of Interscope Records (Eminem, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Nine Inch Nails, 50 Cent, …). Of course we all know by now that these two gentlemen are now billionaires due to selling beats to Apple, but the »How did it come to this?« is incredibly interesting and beautiful to look at. Especially the business aspects are fascinating, but hey: Don‘t hate the player. Hate the game.
Quick question: Do you also hate it so much that Netflix always uses weird photos instead of decent covers? Anyway, the documentary has various great covers, one of them being a portrait of Marilyn Manson actually.
»Travis Scott – Look Mom, I Can Fly«
Watch the trailer here
A documentary about one of the biggest current world stars of rap. Travis Scott is a phenomenon and makes music that is popular worldwide. Everything the guy touches, whether it’s shoes or breakfast cereals, instantly becomes a must-have for every young person, but at the end of the day this film is a »1.5h sequence of 15sec Insta Story Highlights«. I’ve never seen a person jump off somewhere as often as Travis Scott in this documentary…. I pass.
But I’d like to add some thoughts of my good friend @dilaythecreator (follow her):
»The documentary basically shows that Travis Scott is the best performer of our time. His fanbase mainly consists of people who can let it all out and go crazy at his shows. He always involves his audience, which shows that it’s not just an ordinary performance, but that we all more or less belong together.«
Maybe the whole thing is worth a further look from this point of view…
»Lil Peep – Everybody’s Everything«
Here’s the trailer
The Lil Peep hype has completely passed me by, but I have already witnessed the sadness that arose in many young people when he died in 2017. The intro spoken by his grandfather is heartbreaking. And you truly can see the joy on the faces of all the people (Lil Peep’s ex-girlfriend, Ghostmane, Juicy J,…) who are reminiscing about Peep. Of all the films, this is the most personal documentary, as it deals with the feelings and fears of the protagonist in great detail. The film is sad and it kills you to see the suffering of someone who is not a »typical rapper«. One could argue that Hip-Hop has always been an expression for social grievances and now it’s about emotional grievances. It’s nice to see that people from all social classes use Hip-Hop to express their feelings and thus reach so many other people and make them feel understood.
As my homegirl @uglysxgirl (follow her on Instagram) has put it in the voicemail she has sent me after I asked her to explain her fascination with Lil Peep:
»Lil Peep was someone you could be very close to. At concerts. You felt like you were in a family when you heard what he said, like >Talk to your friends. Give each other support<. That’s why he was so popular. The lyrics, the way he sees the world… And musically, it was all so new. But most of all, the way he connected to his fans was the best part.«
My conclusion: Not enough »classic Hip-Hop« for a guy stuck in the old days like me, but a character study about a very emotional young man, who just wanted to be there for everyone or rather be »Everybody’s Everything«
I hope this selection and my reviews can be a little help for you, so boredom does not get you down too much. By the way, shortly before the editorial deadline my brother told me that there is a documentary about Mr.Cartoon and Estevan Oriol on Netflix. You should probably watch that, too.
Stay healthy and keep in touch with your family and friends.
Visual Content – Illustrations: V.Raeter