Hip Hop Cinema

Susan Gerhard July 28, 2006

Film journalist Cathleen Rountree not only teaches writing and multicultural studies at UC Santa Cruz, she also teaches cinephiles of the wider world the interdisciplinary art of starting their own film groups. Her new book, “The Movie Lovers’ Club” (May, 2006), asks fans of film to graft the solo performance of watching into the social art of conversation. And who knows, perhaps film groups are the cure for an atomized culture all too happy with its flat-screen TVs? It certainly beats Bowling Alone. This week we inaugurated a new, occasional series for SF360 by asking Rountree: “What are you watching?”

Writes Rountree, “This summer I’ve been writing an essay on hip hop cinema for the fall issue of Release Print. Although the article focuses on newer docs, I’ve (re)viewed 42 movies with hip hop themes in the last two months. Hip hop culture, especially rapping, naturally lends itself to the cinematic medium — its spoken language is inherently visual and the stories rappers convey are kinetic and compelling.” What follows are Rountree’s five categories featuring 27 films of a perhaps under-discussed genre: hip hop cinema.

1. The Drama
“Krush Groove” (Michael Schultz, 1985)
“Straight Out of Brooklyn” (Matty Rich, 1991)
“Menace II Society” (Albert and Allen Hughes, 1993)
“8 Mile” (Curtis Hanson, 2002)
“Hustle and Flow” (Craig Brewer, 2005)

2. The Documentary
“Biggie & Tupac” (Nick Broomfield, 2002)
“Tupac Resurrection” (Lauren Lazin, 2003)
“Gunner Palace” (Petra Epperlein & Michael Tucker, 2004)
“Bling: Consequences and Repercussions” (Kareem Edouard, 2005: http://www.wghfilms.com/bling.htm)
“Chappelle’s Block Party” (Michel Gondry, 2005)
“Beyond Beats and Rhymes: A Hip-Hop Head Weighs in on Manhood in Rap Music” (Byron Hurt, 2006)

3. The Comedy
“House Party” (Reginald Hedlin, 1990)
“CB4” (Tamra Davis, 1993)
“Friday” (F. Gary Gray, 1995)
“Barbershop” (Tim Story, 2002)

4. The Hip-Hop Arts: Rapping, Dancing, Graffiti
“Wild Style” (Charlie Ahearn, 1982)
“Slam” (Marc Levin, 1998)
“Freestyle: The Art of Rhyming” (Kevin Fitzgerald, 2000)
“Scratch” (Doug Pray, 2001)
“Rize” (David LaChapelle, 2005)

5. Commentaries on Hip-Hop Culture
“Colors” (Dennis Hopper, 1988)
“Do the Right Thing” (Spike Lee, 1989)
“Hoop Dreams” (Steve James, 1994)
“Basquiat” (Julian Schnabel, 1996)
“Bulworth” (Warren Beatty, 1998)
“Ghost Dog: The Art of the Samurai” (Jim Jarmusch, 1999)
“Bamboozled” (Spike Lee, 2000)