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New Documentary, Campaign Ask Youth To Critically Examine Hip Hop Culture


In his new documentary, “Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes”, Byron Hunt presents images, samples and interviews that he hopes will expose and take apart the structures of violence, hyper-aggression and misogyny present in much of today’s hip-hop.

Produced by Stanley Nelson, known for such documentaries as “Marcus Garvey: Look for Me in the Whirlwind,” the 60-minute film is scheduled to air nationally on the PBS Series “Independent Lens” on Tuesday, February 20.

“I was doing a lot of work, spent a lot of years mentoring boys and young men about sexism and men’s violence against women and masculine identity and I had to find the right outlet to get us men to take a hard look at ourselves,” Hunt says while describing the inspiration for creating the film.

In the process of making the film, Hunt interviews a variety of scholars, hip-hop historians and a number of male rappers — including Public Enemy’s Chuck D, Talib Kweli, Mos Def and Busta Rhymes.

While the film is not a crusade to change the face of the mainstream music industry, Hunt says he hopes that the film will inspire viewers to open their minds and be self-reflective. “It’s up to us as consumers to challenge some of the representations of masculinity that we see in American culture,” he says. “We have to start saying, ‘I don’t buy into this idea that a man is supposed to be violent or sexist or homophobic.’”

“Beyond Beats and Rhymes” has a very strong activist component. Hunt says he would like it to become an educational tool — there is a curriculum to be taught in conjunction with the documentary and he is currently hosting screenings at colleges across the nation.

Colleges, he says, are important places to show the film — important because “that’s one place where young people are engaging in critical thinking. They’re there to push their own consciousness, and I think that’s a really great place for change to begin.” Hunt also plans to use the film in prisons and juvenile detention centers, where he says many young men have bought into societal views of masculinity.

But most importantly, he says, he wants to reach as many people as possible through the film. “PBS has a certain demographic, but I also want to reach the people I’m making the film for, and that’s young people inside the hip-hop generation, particularly young males.”

The national broadcast of the film will be supported by a comprehensive national Community Engagement Campaign, which is designed to educate both young consumers and media makers about the issues of gender, race and community values. The overarching goals of the campaign is to create a national conversation using hip-hop as a focal point to address violent, materialistic and sexually explicit facets of American culture.

For more information on the film and about the campaign, visit

–Patrick Harris


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