Hip-hop, the music genre that has expanded beyond beats and breakdancing and into a multi-billion dollar industry since its inception in 1973, will be turning 50 soon and that incredulous feat will be the subject of a new project series from Nas, his production banner Mass Appeal and Showtime, aptly titled Hip Hop 50.
Per Deadline, the three-year project will be comprised of numerous “films, documentaries, television series, podcasts and digital projects exploring the history, the people and the music” of the hugely successful, highly profitable construct. The first of this year’s trio of content includes Nas’ directorial debut You’re Watching Video Music Box, which premiered on Showtime over the weekend. The hour and a half film tells the story of “the longest-running music video show in the world, which introduced viewers to artists like Jay Z, LL Cool J, Nicki Minaj and Nas long before they were stars” and follows “Ralph McDaniels, who opened up his archive of videos, most of them for a defunct local New York TV station, to help tell the story of the early days of hip hop.”
The second film, Ricky Powell: The Individualist, will be centered around New York City photographer Ricky Powell, whose claim to fame included his iconic pictures of “the Beastie Boys, Run DMC and LL Cool J as well as Madonna and an infamous shot of Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat.” Powell died earlier this year at age 59.
The third film, Rolling Like Thunder, will take a look at “the secret underground world and history of freight train and graffiti culture, highlighting the artists, competitive graffiti crews and battles with the institution” and “the origin story, the stories of those around the culture as well as tales of particular artists, but it’s not designed to go through artist-by-artist.”
Expressing his excitement over the project, Mass Appeal Chief Creative Officer Sacha Jenkins explained:
“Hip hop is turning 50 in 2023 and people don’t realize how broad the influence of the culture is, so we wanted to create something leading up to it and beyond that gives people a baseline education and also helps people understand how prominent and dominant it is in our everyday lives.”
He further added, “If you’re an average white American kid in the 1970s, maybe Led Zeppelin was the staple of your musical diet but if you are a 23 white American [now], DMX might have been the first cassette your mom bought for you. It’s so mainstream in many ways but… hip hop in documentaries was way behind rock n roll for years. When you think about how limitless it is in terms of where hip hop gets inspiration, you can only imagine how limitless the galaxy of hip hop is when talking about the films and television projects that you can make.”
You’re Watching Video Music Box is available to stream now on Showtime and Hulu. Ricky Powell: The Individualist premieres Friday, Dec. 10 with Rolling Thunder set to air the following Friday, Dec. 17 on Showtime.