The hip-hop music movement which started in the 1970s in Brooklyn among the African-American population living in dire conditions in the ghettos has now reached worldwide popularity and is a multi-billion dollar business. In celebrating hip-hop and singing along with our favorite numbers from the genre, we sometimes tend to forget the actual roots of this music. Hip-hop is a densely political expression of a class of people who were highly ignored by mainstream American media during the 1960s and 1970s. The racism inherent in American society, the unlawful arrests of African-Americans, and their prosecution regarding the same — all these issues were addressed in some of the most popular hip-hop and rap songs of all time.
Irv “Gotti” Lorenzo, one of the most well-known hip-hop producers, has devised a wonderful way in which he can get across stories which affected the black population during the heyday of hip-hop and rap music. In his series ‘Tales’, Gotti uses popular hip-hop songs to make small stories based on their lyrics. Each episode of the series is a completely different story based on the songs of famous artists like NWA, Jay-Z, The Notorious B.I.G., and others. The first episode of ‘Tales’ is based on the iconic but controversial NWA number, ‘F*** Tha Police’. If you enjoyed watching this series and are looking for other shows that explore similar ideas and themes, then we’ve got you covered. Here’s the list of best shows similar to ‘Tales’ that are our recommendations. You can watch several of these series like ‘Tales’ on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime.
6. The Breaks (2017)
VH1’s 2016 TV movie ‘The Breaks’ is the inspiration behind this series. The show came into existence because fans loved the movie and the way it explored hip-hop music’s growth. They demanded that the stories of the three leading characters of the film be continued in any form. Wood Harris, Mack Wilds, and Afton Williamson are the stars of the series, which also sees the presence of famous hip-hop musician Method Man among its cast members. The story of ‘The Breaks’ is set during the 1990s – a time when some of the most popular rap artists were performing at the peak of their careers. Despite huge public acclaim, the series shows how mainstream media always stayed away from covering hip-hop’s most famous artists. Season 1 consists of eight episodes and aired on VH1. The second season, which was scheduled to air on BET, got canceled after its announcement.
5. Unsolved (2018)
If you ask any hip-hop fan who are the five greatest rappers of all time, two names are sure to come up – Biggie and Tupac. These two musicians are extremely popular among fans of the genre. Their lives and relationship with each other were also equally well known. Biggie and Tupac started off as friends, but after Tupac was shot five times outside Biggie’s studio in New York, tension boiled up between them which led to the east coast-west coast hip-hop rivalry. Their untimely deaths and both murder cases remaining unsolved to this day have created a myth around the legacies of these rap superstars. ABC’s series ‘Unsolved’ focuses on the lives and eventual murders of Biggie and Tupac. Their characters are played by Wavyy Jonez and Marcc Rose respectively. The series mainly tackles the murders of the two rappers through the accounts of Detective Greg Kading (Josh Duhamel) and Detective Russell Poole (Jimmi Simpson). The show received praise for the performances by the actors.
4. The Get Down (2016-2017)
‘The Get Down’ is a Netflix TV series created by the famous Australian director Baz Luhrmann. In the series, Luhrmann explores the growth of hip-hop music in New York’s South Bronx region. We get to see how R&B and disco records were greatly influential in developing the hip-hop sound. DJs were then making turntables by themselves and were getting acquainted with how to scratch discs in a manner which produces the sound we associate with hip-hop. Their innovative style was popular among the dancers and later spread on to other listeners. It is through the stories of five teenagers that we get to witness how hip-hop quickly became popular in New York.
Each episode starts off with a rap performance where an MC touches describes what happened in the previous episode and what users might experience in the episode at hand. Famous rappers aNas and Grandmaster Flash also collaborated with Luhrmann on the series; and with both these legends from New York, we can expect the story to be highly authentic. The first season of the show was released in two parts in 2016 and 2017, but then got canceled. Just like ‘Tales’, ‘The Get Down’ also brings to us several stories associated with the growth of the popular musical genre. In the show, we get to witness the actual sociopolitical situation of the people who gave birth to the genre.
3. American Soul (2019-)
‘American Soul‘ is the story of Don Cornelius and his legendary show ‘Soul Train’. For the uninitiated, Don Cornelius is a hugely important name when it comes to African-American representation on television. Cornelius, on noticing that soul music was having almost no representation in the media, decided that it was time for a TV show which will only focus on African-Americans and music of their choice. This led to the birth of his influential TV series ‘Soul Train’.
In ‘American Soul’, creators Jonathan Prince and Devon Greggory attempt to recreate the life and hard work put by Cornelius behind the realization and growth of this show. We get to see the numerous personal sacrifices he had to make for the series, which, though difficult, made him into a cultural phenomenon. ‘Soul Train’ first premiered in 1971, and there was so less representation of people of color in television during those times that ‘Soul Train’ became the main source through which the rest of America gained knowledge about African-American culture. ‘American Soul’, just like ‘Tales’, brings to us stories from America which hardly get enough coverage and exposes the segregation that has permeated into every aspect of American society and culture.
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2. Hip-Hop Evolution (2016)
If ‘Tales’ is a show about the sociopolitical context in which rap music flourished, ‘Hip-Hop Evolution’ is a show about how the musicians who dabbled in the genre began developing the sound and concepts behind what hip-hop later came to be. ‘Hip-Hop Evolution’ is an HBO original Canadian documentary series which chronicles the rise of the music from the days of DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, and Grandmaster Flash. We then witness how DJing was invented, how the genre became popular with the help of bootleg tapes and so on. The invention of the gangsta rap genre which made rap controversial among a certain section of Americans is also chronicled in the eight-episode documentary series.
Personal points of view of rap’s most famous legends is what becomes the USP of this series. We get to hear from the masters themselves – who their inspirations were, how they developed their sound and so on. For fans who are interested in learning about the history of hip-hop music, ‘Hip-Hop Evolution’ can serve as a door to an entire world.
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1. Behind The Music (1997-)
When we listen to our favorite artists, we just get to listen to their music and what they wish to communicate with their fans. But if we truly want to fully understand and grasp their music, sometimes it is important to go beyond the music and experience the individual/s behind it. This is what VH1’s iconic show ‘Behind The Music’ has been doing for over two decades. The series chronicles the life of important musical artists along with their journey into the world of music to help us understand the struggles of their lives. From hip-hop icons like Ice Cube, Ice-T, 50 Cent and others to rock music legends like Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Pink Floyd, Metallica, the series has covered the biggest musicians in the world throughout its run. There is hardly any show which is as close to the hearts of music fans like VH1’s ‘Behind The Music’.
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