Brown Sugar is a movie that follows two childhood friends that are both involved in the music industry. The New York natives live separate lives in New York City and Los Angeles and eventually find love. The movie holds a top spot for me for epic Black love stories and does a phenomenal job with hip-hop credits.
Because Sidney (Sanaa Lathan) is a hip-hop editor who writes about the culture daily, and Dre (Taye Diggs) is a music talent rep who is interested in signing the best in the business, the conversation in the movie always goes back to their love for hip-hop music and culture. It’s even cooler when you realize hip-hop started at block parties in the Bronx during the ‘70s.
In honor of Brown Sugar and hip-hop, here are the top hip-hop documentaries you should be adding to your list.
Tupac: Resurrection (2003)
The biography of Tupac, as told by friends and admirers — Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Kendrick Lamar, and more. The movie shows home videos, interviews, photographers, and speaking tidbits from the historic rapper on his own life and death.
Fade to Black (2004)
To the uninitiated, Jay-Z thought about retirement in 2014, and this documentary shows his final interviews, backstage moments, studio highlights, and the making of The Black Album (known as his final album at the time). Thank goodness he decided to not step out of the limelight.
My Mic Sounds Nice: A Truth About Women and Hip-Hop (2010)
Directed by none other than Ava DuVernay, this is a fabulous film about the difficult challenges and realities of women in hip-hop. The marginalized community seldom gets the credit it deserves, and they explore the role women have in the male-dominated world.
Nas: Time Is Illmatic (2014)
Released on the 20th anniversary of Nas’ debut album Illmatic, this documentary looks at the life of Nas. Filled with interviews from his family and other iconic hip-hop leaders, it follows the classic album under the same name.
The Defiant Ones (2017)
Directed by Allen Hughes, The Defiant Ones follows the partnership of Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre.
A Netflix original, it looks at the lives of 9 rappers across America. You’ll see stuff on Nas and T.I, G-Eazy, 2 Chainz, and Logic, as they all share their journey and rise to the top.
Birdman Before Anythang: The Cash Money Story (2018)
Cash Money Records, made up of Lil’ Wayne, Birdman, and Slim, is one of the most well known groups in hip-hop. Birdman Before Anythang gives a 75-minute detailed depiction of the Cash Money story, the real one.
Rhythm + Flow (2019)
This is a 10-episode series from Netflix and a music reality show for rappers. They compete for $250,000 in cash as they are judged by T.I., Cardi B, and Chance The Rapper.
Biggie: I Got A Story To Tell (2021)
This lengthy story tells the story of Christopher Wallace, known in the culture as The Notorious B.I.G., in his young days as a drug dealer and his tragic death at 24.
Let’s take a look back at the music that made the stars: Jay-Z verses that prove he’s still the G.O.A.T., scene-stealing verses from Lil Wayne, and our Ladies Go Hard playlist.
Photo via Getty/Thaddaeus McAdams