Through presentation, both lyrically and music video, hip-hop has allowed itself to become an incredibly formulaic medium dominated mostly by men. While in the early days of hip-hop, groups like KRS-One and Public Enemy were interested in mostly in raising political awareness no matter how grim in nature it sounded. Now, it’s almost impossible to find anything in rap lyrics other than money, jewelry (often titled “bling” or “ice”), liquor, and women whom they openly label with negative titles.
How come there are no more groups or artist coming out these days? “Nobody wants to hear that s**t anymore,” says rapper Jadakiss. How would anyone know if artists like this aren’t given a chance for exposure? It this type of music isn’t being explored by record companies or exploited on television, how can anyone really know what the public wants when they aren’t even given the option?
These (and a lot more) are the questions director Byron Hurt asks in his film, “Breaking Beats and Rhymes.” Hip-hop music is the music he grew up and the music he loves. Yet, he can’t help but wonder about the way manhood is represented in hip-hop culture.
A journey to Daytona Beach during a BET (Black Entertainment Channel) Spring Break function, Hurt captures hundreds of young men immerged in the hip-hop lifestyle, grabbing at any female walking by wearing scantily beachwear (as they are at the beach). One interviewee calls some of these women “b*****s” just because they chose to walk around in such attire, then he continues by saying, “I’m probably gonna go over there and grab one of their a***s.”
Hurt asks all the right questions regarding these social issues in the scene but many times, the answers come up short. It’s a fascinating subject rarely explored in the depth this short documentary submerges in. He interviews various artists both young and new; artists such as Mos Def, Chuck D, Fat Joe, and Busta Rhymes. When he aims these issues at young up-and-comers, some are intelligent to come up with opinionated responses while others just show their ignorance.