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Bingeable: Hip-Hop Evolution 

When? 2016, 2018

What's it rated? TV-MA

Where's it available? Netflix

Canadian hip-hop artist and broadcaster Shadrach Kabango leads viewers to where it all started—the Bronx during the 1970s. In the first episode of the Netflix series Hip-Hop Evolution, Kabango interviews the guys who people say laid the foundation for rap, starting with a DJ named Kool Herc, who threw parties with his turntables, focusing on the drum-break in funk, jazz, R&B, and rock songs. It was something different to dance to during the disco heyday and it caught on across New York's five boroughs, leaking into dancehalls, parks, and eventually the disco scene.

click to enlarge MUSIC REVOLUTION Take a trip back to the beginnings of hip-hop with Canadian hip-hop artist and journalist Sadrach Kabango, in the Netflix series Hip-Hop Evolution. - PHOTO COURTESY OF NETFLIX
  • Photo Courtesy Of Netflix
  • MUSIC REVOLUTION Take a trip back to the beginnings of hip-hop with Canadian hip-hop artist and journalist Sadrach Kabango, in the Netflix series Hip-Hop Evolution.

Using old photographs, video footage, and interviews with DJs, MCs, producers, and others in the music business, the series takes viewers on a ride through time. Kabango interviews Grandmaster Flash, the first DJ to play his turntables like an instrument, and his crew of MCs, the Furious Five. They were the first crew to take their show on the road, rapping to crowds around the nation and world.

It all starts with leather, pleather, and furs. High boots, tight pants, naked chests, metal studs, and gaudy gold chains, costumes that mimicked the rock and pop shows of the day. Beat-boys breakdancing on the disco floor. Rap battles. And lots of bootleg cassette tapes—because no one was making rap records at that time.

Then a producer created the Sugar Hill Gang from three guys she found in front of a pizza joint. They could rap, even if one of them stole the words from another MC, and she wanted to put out a record. Although many of the DJs and MCs involved in the scene weren't happy about the Sugar Hill Gang, their 1979 hit "Rapper's Delight" was the first rap song to become a top 40 hit. It changed everything.

And the series evolves from there. Kabango interviews members of the Wu-Tang Clan, Run D.M.C., A Tribe Called Quest, Public Enemy, and other hip-hop legends. He chats with producers like Puff Daddy and Russel Simmons. The series starts in New York and broadens its scope, eventually heading to the South and the West Coast. It walks you through the underground scenes that started in areas of Houston, Oakland, and Compton, and introduces you to the people who weren't afraid to continue breaking the music mold—including 2 Live Crew and MC Hammer.

And beneath it all are cuts of great music: De La Soul, Queen Latifah, Afrika Bambaataa, Digital Underground, Too $hort, N.W.A., The Geto Boys. The best part about the series is how it tells the story—it really is an evolution, from rappers in parks laying down smooth lines, to raising consciousness about violence and drugs, to gangster rap, free speech, and the reality of life in impoverished inner cities.

If, like me, you grew up listening to rap and hip-hop and, like me, you love documentary style storytelling, it's a good way to spend a few hours, learn a little bit more about history, and listen to the music that takes you back. (Two seasons, 40- to 50-min. episodes) Δ

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