“We’re like in this box. In order to be in that box you have to be strong. You have to be tough. You have to have a lot of girls. You gotta have money. You gotta be a player or a pimp. You know, you gotta be in control. You have to dominate other men, other people.”
~ Byron Hurt, filmmaker
Look at hip-hop videos, listen to the lyrics, and you notice a lot of similarities: guns, violence, women, sex, and money. Filmmaker Byron Hurt is a huge hip-hop fan, but he began to question the representations of manhood and masculinity, the portrayal of women and the prevalence of violence in hip-hop music and videos. Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes is a record of his journey.
In a society full of hypermasculine violence and posturing in music, movies, video games, and sports and military culture, this film serves as an excellent tool for exploring issues surrounding what it means to be a man (especially a man of color) in America, through the lens of hip-hop.
In his exploration of hip-hop music and culture, Hurt raises questions about several issues, from perceptions of masculinity, to the prevalence of sexism, misogyny and the objectification of women, to the existence of homophobia and homoeroticism in lyrics and images. He also explores the roots of hip-hop and the exploitation and domination of hip-hop by the major music industry, which is primarily controlled by white men.
I learned a lot from this film that I hadn’t thought about before. For example, Hurt points out that guns in the videos are an outlet for the rage that many young men of color feel, that there is a lineage of black men wanting to deny their own frailty, and that guns, violence and posturing are a way for young men to assert themselves and to assert the power that rich white guys manifest in other ways.
One of the interviewees in the film said that “…the only way in which men are allowed to make a connection in the popular culture with women is through sexuality….” Hurt also pointed out that between 60-70% of hip-hop listeners are young white men, and that a lot of the emphasis on violence and sexism comes from those at the top of the music industry, most of whom are white men.
Hip-Hop was originally shown on PBS, and the companion website includes clips from the documentary, suggested resources, background information about the film and the issues explored, and educational materials, such as a discussion guide.
This is a great video to share with friends, older students, people working with older teens (especially young men), and others interested in issues surrounding masculinity, sexism, violence and media. (Be aware that the film and website include explicit language and images.)
Filed under: films, media literacy, social justice, systemic change | Tagged: cultural issues, documentaries, films, hip-hop, homophobia, masculinity, media literacy, misogyny, music industry, rap music, sexism, videos, violence, young men of color | Leave a comment »