(Image from Netflix)
Netflix recently released a new set of episodes of Banger Films informative and entertaining award-winning series Hip-Hop Evolution. The series takes viewers on an educational trip through one of the most important counter-culture movements in history. Hip-Hop’s beginnings, transitions, trials and tribulations are well described and discussed. Over time I have come to appreciate the importance of this music, the counter-culture it represented and how it brought attention to so many things I was not aware of in my small-town world.
My hometown is the place where Viola Desmond would be part of a historical act of civil disobedience by refusing to move from a whites-only section of a downtown movie theater. It is a crime that this was not in my school curriculum when racism was brought up as a topic. Her defiance act is such an important part of history that Ms. Desmond is now represented on our ten-dollar bill.
My education on “Black History” through music was more thorough than any classes in school. I realize that wasn’t entirely the fault of my teachers. Many of them did their damnedest to bring in what they could. Still, the fact that Viola Desmond’s defiance was not mentioned once? Seriously?
There was much about hip-hop that drew the ire of parents and authority figures. Much in the same way that heavy metal fired up bible-thumpers and uneducated educators who thought they were protecting children from a denial of reality. Hip-hop’s history offers plenty of insight into systemic racism and other social issues within some of America’s biggest cities. The series starts out at the very beginning where it all was said to have began. The Bronx. 1520 Sedgwick Avenue and one of the innovators, DJ Kool Herc.
Throughout the episodes, I was wondering how far could this story go? Each chapter links to another, and another. It feels like nothing has been missed. From the story of “Rapper’s Delight”, the Run-DMC and Aerosmith collaboration, N.W.A. the East-Coast West-Coast “war” and the too slickly produced stream of material emerging in the late nineties, it’s all there.
Narrator/interviewer Shad K., himself a skilled artist in his own right, effortlessly questions the dozens of interview subjects with seamless flow. Each episode leaves no stone upturned. Many of the most important chapters are covered. Questions that viewers may think of get answered minutes later or episodes later. There are plenty of returns to earlier interviewees in order to get their comments on something from a different era.
In between drafting this piece I went back and started to watch episodes again, having felt a bit stuck on what else I could contribute. In my second look, there is just so much there that I would not be doing readers justice in commenting any further. This series is that good. Anyone who is a fan of music history needs to sit through this amazing work.