Fight the Power How Hip Hop Changed the World Review 2023 Tv Show Series Cast Crew Online
Braggadocio may be a common feature of rap, but Public Enemy frontman Chuck D would simply be stating facts if he called himself a godfather of hip-hop, lyrical virtuoso or political provocateur. Revealingly, he actually describes himself as “a serviceperson” whose most significant achievement was “fighting for a voice that was for so long silenced and strangled”.
Fight The Power: How Hip-Hop Changed the World, a new four-part BBC documentary series produced and hosted by Chuck D, offers an absorbing survey of how a musical genre that originated on the streets of New York in the 1970s developed into a movement against racial and economic oppression and came to dominate the world’s charts in the process.
Like the HBO/Netflix series Hip-Hop Evolution, which covers similar ground over four seasons, the show is built on the contributions of rap grandees, including Ice-T, Melle Mel, Eminem, and Killer Mike. But while landmark rap records are spotlighted, here the emphasis is on social commentary, with discussions largely focusing on the sociopolitical contexts from which rap songs emerged, rather than the technical aspects of sampling and production.
There are detailed reflections, for instance, on the urban decay documented by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five in “The Message”, the political consciousness stirred up by Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power”, and the systematical brutality confronted in NWA’s “Fuck tha Police”. Even if you have no taste for the music, it is hard to argue with the potency of such songs in giving voice to poor black communities neglected, exploited and demonised by discriminatory government policies and policing methods.
Where the first two episodes celebrate hip-hop as a symbol and product of resistance and ambition, the series’ second half broaches rap’s reputation for inciting violence as well as reflecting it; for inspiring awareness but also promoting avarice and misogyny. There are efforts to be even-handed — and to give due credit to female trailblazers such as Queen Latifah — but these valid criticisms sometimes get lost amid slightly defensive points about the moral panic rap can provoke.
A final chapter charts hip-hop’s rising cultural and commercial cachet in the 2000s, when rappers went from fighting the power to helping bring the first black president into it. Yet the show also soberingly underlines that progress is at best ongoing, at worst elusive and illusory.
That the influence of hip-hop — the bestselling genre in music today — is only growing is something that the documentary might have explored in greater detail than in its brief run-through of contemporary artists. But as rapper Lupe Fiasco reminds us “hip-hop is always going to supply [the song we] need for the moment”.