Foreign Gists

The five best hip hop films ever


Before hip hop was a multi-million dollar industry and a worldwide genre, it was a small, simple sound being created by just a handful of people. Before hip hop had its billionaires and millionaires, and before it was profitable, only a small neighbourhood knew what it was or how to produce it.

Born in 1970s New York as a form of rebellion, in hip hop, three is the magic number, and the invention of hip hop culture is mainly credited to three individuals along their affiliates partially. Those three people are DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash and Grand Wizard Theodore.

Kool Herc is credited with introducing what he called ‘The Merry-Go-Round Technique’ to African-American DJs to create an extended break. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five are credited with introducing MCing over the extended breaks, and Grand Wizard Theodore is credited with popularising the scratch technique to add excitement and vigour to records.

This laid the foundation for hip hop to flourish and for young African-Americans to make music. However, before long, hip hop was such a profitable art form, with its stars obtaining such drawing power that rappers started getting opportunities in the film industry and were branching out into acting. There have been so many amazing hip-hop-orientated films, so we have picked out the top five. See the list below.

The five best hip hop films ever:

5. How High, (2001)

How High is a classic stoner-comedy — perhaps one of the first to truly define the culture. Featuring Method Man and Redman playing characters by the name of Silas and Jamal, the film explores the two characters who are visited by the ghost of their dead friend after they decided to smoke his ashes.

Written by Dustin Lee Abraham, and directed by Jesse Dylan, the film is undoubtedly a hip hop classic.

4. Love Beats Rhymes, (2017)

Featuring Azealia Banks, Jill Scott and Common, as well as being directed by RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan, Love Beats Rhymes doesn’t get the attention it deserves. However, part of that is due to the fact the film was enshrouded in controversy after Azealia Banks got into a fight with Russell Crowe, who allegedly (with RZA’s help) was set to have sex with Azealia Banks.

Love Beats Rhymes is about a young girl named Coco Ford (Azealia Banks), struggling to come to grips with the fluid nature of poetry as an avid rap fan. Butting heads with her poetry lecturer (Jill Scott), she begins to break out of hip hop’s rigid beats and bars structure and learns to express herself in a more free-flowing and poetic way. Truly a must-watch, Banks plays the role brilliantly.

3. Step Up 2: The Streets, (2008)

An amazing film with an all-star lineup starring Channing Tatum, Robert Hoffman and others, Step Up 2 is a classic hip hop film. Many people forget that hip hop, the culture, is actually comprised of three parts, rap, break-dancing and graffiti art. This movie focuses on the break-dancing aspect in particular.

About a rebellious street dancer, the movie focuses on how a group of high school outcasts and misfits form a street dance crew in order to participate in an underground dance battle in Baltimore known as ‘The Streets’. Living with her guardian in Baltimore after the recent death of her mother, the main character, Andie West, feels she does not fit in at her new school of the arts. However, she begins to find her place and form the crew.

2. Straight Outta Compton, (2015)

A biopic based on the rise and slow decline of the Compton crew N.W.A, Straight Outta Compton gives a real and emotional depiction of the different struggles that the crew had to go through to reach the heights they did. From Dr Dre to Eazy-E and Ice Cube, every member of the crew is played in the film, and you can see the journey from all perspectives.

Starring Ice Cube’s son O’Shea Jackson, the film also stars Jr. Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell and Paul Giamatti. The film was such a good watch it even inspired Dr Dre’s third studio album, Compton. However, the film was not without its controversy as former N.W.A manager Jerry Heller took legal action against the filmmakers, protesting his depiction was not accurate, and that material was stolen from his autobiography. The case was dismissed.

1. 8 Mile, (2002)

8 Mile is a semi-autobiographical film starring Eminem in the lead role as Jimmy Smith, who raps under the name B-Rabbit. The film depicts the experience of Smith as he struggles to launch a career in hip hop as a white rapper. Directed by Curtis Hanson, the movie also stars Brittany Murphy alongside Eminem.

Smith, played by Eminem, bounces around from job to job and is the stereotypical “white trash” loser. However, the story has many layers. He has a daughter, a family and friends. Some people support him, and some don’t, but Eminem is just extremely good in this film. Named after Detroit’s 8 mile highway, Eminem won ‘Best Male Performance’ and ‘Best Breakthrough Performance’ at the MTV Movie Awards.

The soundtrack, which features the renowned ‘Lose Yourself’, even won Eminem not one but two Grammy awards for ‘Best Rap Song’ and ‘Best Male Solo Rap Performance’. 8 mile tops this list deservedly.