Five amazing hip-hop documentaries you need to watch right now
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Five amazing hip-hop documentaries you need to watch right now

Whether it’s Netflix or the BBC, plenty of fantastic hip-hop documentaries are currently being produced. However, they sometimes get significantly poorer than the new hot game show or children’s film, so our job is to hunt them out and give them a nice watch.

With the abundance of films and documentaries available, sometimes it’s easy for us fans to get drawn to the cliché topics. Whether it’s the murders of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls or the story of N.W.A., some elements of hip-hop have been done to death.

That being said, we must put in that effort to find those hidden gems because when we do, secret treasures reveal themselves to us. With so many streaming platforms active nowadays, sometimes it’s the subscription-only services that try to lure us in with their dramatic adverts and fancy voiceovers. However, more often than not, you find the best documentaries present themselves for free, or cheaply on non-subscription services such as YouTube.

Generally, the best, most thorough documentaries cover the entirety of the genre and show us hip-hop’s beginnings and journey as a culture. Furthermore, the top documentaries present hip-hop as the four-legged entity it is. That means exploring not just rap music but graffiti art, turntablism and breakdancing in addition to emceeing.

Input from real-life pioneers and industry heads is crucial. It often helps even young African-Americans now learn more about the inception of the genre they consume so heavily. In no particular order, below we will present you with our selection of the five fantastic hip-hop documentaries you should be watching right now. Take a look at our picks.

Five amazing hip-hop documentaries you need to watch:

Hip-Hop Evolution

Hip-Hop Evolution is an exceptional documentary series that explores the genre’s exciting journey from its humble Bronx beginnings in the 1970s up to the 2000s. The extensive series breaks down each individual era through interviews. By including pioneers and icons such as Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa and Kurtis Blow, viewers receive very accurate and highly in-depth stories about how these individuals and pioneers organically came together to create what is now an industry worth over $4 billion a year.  

The documentary includes previously unseen footage from the hip-hop archives and not only speaks about the music that was created but the places and spaces that helped cultivate the genre, including now demolished venues and unused New York youth clubs. Narrated by the revered Canadian rapper and broadcaster Shad K, it is a truly amazing watch. See the exciting trailer below.

Music Nation: Open Mic

Whether you’re from the US or UK, this is a must-watch documentary. Music Nation: Open Mic explores how Black-British people, like African-Americans, ingeniously made nothing out of something to give themselves a voice. US hip-hop provided an incredible blueprint for Black people across the world and provided hope. 

Pioneers such as Grandmaster Flash and DJ Cool Herc proved that anything was possible with a collective vision and clever use of the few resources available to you. This message was received by the disenfranchised youth of the UK, and as result, what happened in New York happened in London. Savvy youths from impoverished areas began to create, and, before long, an exciting new sound and culture was cultivated against the odds. Although the sonics of grime are different to hip-hop, they mirror each other in spirit and how they gave a new lease of life to their cities, respectively. A fantastic and compelling watch, especially if the culture is alien to you.


A documentary dedicated to Kanye West, this mini-series explores how West went from an unknown producer in Chicago to one of the most well-known hip-hop artists in the world. The journey explores Kanye’s family background, especially with regard to his mother and his move from Atlanta to Chicago, and proceeds to delve into his unique style, unpacking how his style evolved over time.

Beyond just his music, the documentary highlights the obstacles he faced, from his fatal car accident in 2022 to his inability to get signed as a recording artist to Roc-A-Fella. Furthermore, the series explores his quirky personality, often offensive behaviour and his bizarre ability to somehow always stay at the forefront of public consciousness. An interesting trilogy, although if you’re already fully aware of Ye’s journey, it may prove less interesting.

Fight The Power: How Hip-Hop Changed The World

Produced by Chuck D, Fight The Power: How Hip-Hop Changed The World is a four-part documentary series that analyses the entirety of hip-hop. It includes instrumental figures not only in the culture’s mainstream but individuals from the culture’s abundance of different regional off-shoots. Beginning in the mid-1970s, the documentary showcases why hip-hop arose by exploring how the city of New York (in particular, the Bronx) began to slide into grave destitution.

It commences on the East Coast and slowly incorporates different areas chronologically. The four-part documentary series features interviews with Chuck D, Ice-T, KRS-One, Fat Joe and even Eminem. The last instalment of the series is entitled, ‘Still Fighting’ and includes interviews from the likes of and others who all speak on the obstacles hip-hop still faces today and how the genre is fighting to change and grow. A must-see.

Boom For The Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat

As mentioned, hip-hop is a diverse culture. It has many facets, those being rap music, breakdancing, turntablism and graffiti art. However, the latter is often overlooked, especially by institutions dedicated to recognising artistic talent, and this is because it is (for the most part) illegal. Graffiti art takes great skill and is a tough skill to perfect. To scribble one’s name is perhaps trivial. However, creating full murals that are interesting, vibrant, and eye-catching murals is another thing. However, unlike many graffiti artists, Jean-Michel Basquiat was recognised by artistic institutions as a great talent.

Born in the Park Slope neighbourhood of Brooklyn, Basquiat was part of the graffiti duo SAMO, alongside Al Diaz. Together, influenced by punk and hip-hop, the friends grew to become the most revered graffiti artists in New York and are often considered pioneers within the neo-expressionism movement that was gaining momentum in the 1980s. The New York native is known for his abstract style, which he used to express his views concerning political issues affecting African-Americans. Akin to Bristol’s Banksy, his graffiti works are considered extremely valuable. In 2017, one of his pieces sold for $110.5 million, making one of the most expensive art purchases in history.

Although he passed in 1988 due to a heroin overdose the artist is still celebrated to this day, and his works are adored. Boom For The Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat focuses on how the late icon entered the world of graffiti as a teenager and explores his legacy today. A great watch for those interested in hip-hop outside of rap music.