Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes

About Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes, 2006

Filmmaker Byron Hurt, a life-long Hip-Hop fan, was watching rap music videos on BET when he realized that each video was nearly identical. Guys in fancy cars threw money at the camera while scantily clad women danced in the background. As he discovered how stereotypical rap videos had become, Hurt, a former college quarterback turned activist, decided to make a film about the gender politics of Hip-Hop, the music and the culture that he grew up with. “The more I grew and the more I learned about sexism and violence and homophobia, the more those lyrics became unacceptable to me,” he says. “And I began to become more conflicted about the music that I loved.” The result is Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes, a riveting documentary that tackles issues of masculinity, sexism, violence and homophobia in today’s Hip-Hop culture.

Sparking dialogue on Hip-Hop and its declarations on gender, Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes provides thoughtful insight from intelligent, divergent voices including rap artists, industry executives, rap fans and social critics from inside and outside the hip-hop generation. The film includes interviews with famous rappers such as Yasiin Bey, formerly known as Mos Def, Fat Joe, Chuck D and Jadakiss and Hip-Hop mogul Russell Simmons; along with commentary from Michael Eric Dyson, Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Kevin Powell and Sarah Jones and interviews with young women at Spelman College, a historically black school and one of the nation’s leading liberal arts institutions.

The film also explores such pressing issues as women and violence in rap music, representations of manhood in Hip-Hop culture, what today’s rap lyrics reveal about the artists, and homoeroticism in Hip-Hop. A “loving critique” from a self-proclaimed “Hip-Hop head,” Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes discloses the complex intersection of culture, commerce and gender through on-the-street interviews with aspiring rappers and fans at Hip-Hop events throughout the country.

Watch director’s cut scenes and raw footage from Hip-Hop Beyond Beats and Rhymes

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  • Director's Statement

    In the year 2000, I was watching the rap music video countdown on BET’s Rap City — one of my favorite pastimes — when I noticed that nearly every video appeared to be the same. They all featured guys throwing money at the camera, dudes in fancy cars showing off their "iced-out" jewelry and, of course, lots of barely dressed, sexually available women as background props.

    As I saw how formulaic rap music videos had become — with their limited and narrow representations of manhood — I began to wonder, how do black men feel about the representations of manhood in hip-hop culture? How do black women and men feel about the pervasive images of scantily clad and sexually objectified women in rap music and videos? How do black males truly feel about the way women and violence are talked about in rap music? What do today’s rap lyrics tell us about the collective consciousness of black men and women from the hip-hop generation? What does homoeroticism in hip-hop media look like? I decided to pick up the camera to make a film about the gender politics of the music and the culture that I grew up with and loved: hip-hop.

    I have not always paid such close attention to gender politics. But after I graduated from Northeastern University in 1993, the university’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society hired me — a former Northeastern quarterback — to help create a program to educate young men about gender and sexual violence called the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) program. At that point, I knew next to nothing about these issues, so I read and learned as much as I could about rape, sexual assault, battery, and sexual harassment. I reflected on how these issues affected my own life and thought deeply about how, as a male, I had been socialized.

    In 1993, I nervously addressed my first group of men, a college basketball team. With every workshop, I grew more confident and passionate about ending men’s violence against women. Looking back, my involvement with the MVP program for more than 10 years was a turning point in my life.

    I wanted to share what I had learned about gender with other black males in my community, so in 1994, I produced and directed the documentary I Am A Man: Black Masculinity in America, a film that examined black masculine identity in American culture. But hip-hop had not yet become the pop culture success it is today, and I Am A Man did not address its impact on the masculine identity of young black and Latino men from the hip-hop generation.

    Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes is my attempt to pick up where I Am A Man left off and start a discourse on hip-hop and its declarations on gender. In the past five years, I have gathered thoughtful, divergent voices discussing this topic, including celebrity rap artists, industry executives, rap fans and social critics from inside and outside the hip-hop generation. I look forward to continuing this dialogue and the future participation of audiences who watch this film.

    — Byron Hurt

  • Film Credits

    • Produced, Directed and Written byByron Hurt
    • Co-Produced and Edited By Sabrina Schmidt Gordon
    • Director of Photography Bill Winters
    • Additional Photography Rico Beard
      Byron Hurt
      Napoleon Juaniza
      William Luther
      Kazz Pinkard
      Parrish Smith
    • SoundAndre Artis
      Kerry Hustwit
      Caleb Mose
      David Pruger
      Jay Lavely
      Suzi Lee
    • Production Still PhotographersRobert Lee Hughie
      Colleen Norman
      Malik Wright
    • ConsultantsPatricia Aufderheide
      Orlando Bagwell
      Carol Bash
      Cornelius Byrd
      Lewis Erskine
      Jeannie Gordon
      Taundra Hurt
      Peter Jaszi
      Jackson Katz
      Emir Lewis
      Michelle Mattere
      Stanley Nelson
      Caleb Oglesby
      Sam Pollard
      Marcia Smith
      Algernon Tunsil
      Quentin Walcott
    • Writing ConsultantSabrina Schmidt Gordon
    • Graphic DesignerKatie Marsh
    • Design FirmKounterattack Design
    • Production BookkeeperKenya Crumel
    • Production AccountantArthur P. Fishman
    • Accounting FirmDunRite Financial Services
    • Online/Color CorrectionWill Cox
    • Assistant Online EditorSandy Patch
    • Online FacilityFinal Frame
    • Audio Post Production SupervisorJim Roberts
    • Audio Post Production FacilityBrandon Productions, Inc.
    • Recording EngineerScott Cresswell
    • Legal ServicesCowan DeBaets Abrahams & Sheppard LLP
      Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz, PC
    • Additional Legal ServicesKyle Edmonds, Esq.
      Earl Brown, Esq.
      Robert Friedman
      Kenneth Robinson
      Lisa Davis
      Amy Vernitz
      Jean Voutsinas
    • PublicityITVS Communications Department
    • ResearchersKenya Crumel
      Byron Hurt
      Sabrina Schmidt Gordon
    • Archival ResearchSabrina Schmidt Gordon
      Byron Hurt
    • InternTainah Georges
    • Production AssistantsVickrum Gandhi
      Tamika Guishard
      Chad Hogan
      Carletta Hurt
      Katherine Kirk
      Sherri Langsam
      Trevor Montgomery
      Charles Reagan
      Jamila Swift
      Malik Wright
    • TranscriberMarci Jewitt
    • Additional TranscribersKenya Crumel
      Byron Hurt
    • Tape DuplicationsAargil Video & Film
      RP Video Enterprises, Inc.
      Final Frame
    • Tape StockFilm Emporium
      The Tape Company
    • Insurance CoverageNear North Insurance Brokerage
      of New York, Inc.
    • Web DesignAli Santana
    • Additional Web SupportGraphic Vision Media
      KounterAttack Design
    • Speaker's BureauLordly and Dame, Inc.
    • AgentKevin MacRae
    • Executive Producer for ITVSSally Jo Fifer
    • Funding for this program was
      provided by
      The Ford Foundation
      Friend of a Friend Campaign

    Beyond Beats and Rhymes is produced by God Bless the Child Productions in association with the Independent Television Service (ITVS) with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Black Programming Consortia (NBPC)

    This program was produced by God Bless the Child Productions which is solely responsible for its content.

    © 2006 God Bless the Child Productions. All rights reserved.

  • Press Coverage

    New York Times, Dec. 24, 2006: Fans asks hard questions: About rap music
    Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/24/us/24hiphop.html?_r=0

    San Francisco Chronicle, Feb. 20, 2007: Review - Academic view of violence and sexism in Hip-Hop
    Source: http://www.sfgate.com/music/article/REVIEW-Academic-view-of-violence-and-sexism-in-2616210.php

    Washington Post, Feb. 20, 2007: A Hip-Hop fan hunts the reason behind the Rhyme
    Source:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/19/AR2007021901224.html

    New York Daily News, Feb. 19, 2007: Crimes behind the 'Rhymes'
    Source: http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/ent_radio/story/498876p-420593c.html

    Reuters, Feb. 20, 2007: U.S. Hip-Hop film sparks debate on masculinity
    Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/2007/02/20/us-Hip-Hop-documentary-idUSN2017076720070220