Rappin’ To The Beat: The first hip-hop documentary ever made
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Rappin' To The Beat: The first hip-hop documentary ever made

Before there was YouTube, Netflix and hundreds of hip-hop documentary outlets, really and truly, the only way people would find out about an artist and their music (on a large scale) was if it was broadcast on a national TV station.

If an artist was showcased on television, it would open their sound up to a whole new audience. When hip-hop was starting out, local acts in the south Bronx didn’t have much trouble getting their records played at block parties. However, the artists knew that a few spins of their track in their neighbourhood wouldn’t do anything for hip-hop culture on a large scale.

However, this all changed in 1981. Eight years after DJ Kool Herc’s famous Sedgwick Avenue block party, which is considered the start of hip-hop, ABC’s 20/20 news show ran a documentary segment entitled Rappin’ To The Beat. This was the first time that hip-hop in any way, shape or form had been highlighted on a national TV show.

Presented by Steve Fox, the documentary details how Blondie’s ‘Rapture’ was a driving force for hip-hop in the ’80s and explores the genre’s deep roots in African American traditions. The two-part documentary goes all the way back to the south Bronx and shows viewers the block party.

In fact, the montage even has a section dedicated to Kurtis Blow and his track ‘The Breaks’. Viewers get to see the rapper performing his song on the street and, furthermore, get to see the reaction of New York locals enjoying his organic show.

The show goes into detail about how poetry in the deep south, scatting, preaching, and other forms of call and response had been in existence for years before hip-hop and presents rap as something that is an innate part of African culture. The documentary is truly fascinating you can view parts one and two in the videos below.