Mass Appeal and Netflix give hip-hop fans an in-depth documentary for the culture.
Netflix understands that hip-hop is one of the most lucrative art forms on the planet. So, with that in mind, enter Rapture, a new anthology documentary series produced by Mass Appeal. The eight episodes follow nine rappers, with Nas and his protégé Dave East sharing an episode. The concept is simple, each artist is given an hour to highlight their careers, their personal lives, or their vision. While some episodes feel a little stale, such as the G-Eazy chapter, others intricately detail stories that truly showcase the depth and diversity of hip-hop culture.
Truth be told, there is not one Logic song in my music catalog. I never had much interest in the “Black SpiderMan” rapper, until Rapture. Logic kicks off the series with the first episode, and he’s a hard act to follow. Unlike many artists, who are much more articulate on the microphone than when speaking in casual conversation, Logic weaves a passionate tale about his battles with anxiety and depression. As a young boy, Logic was abused by his mother and abandoned by his father. Being the product of an interracial relationship, Logic also details his struggle with race and finding his own voice. The episode was powerful enough to encourage my Login fandom to grow.
The Nas and Dave East episode is another stand-out chapter. The Illmatic rapper’s brother, Jungle, plays a pivotal role in the episode, bridging the decades between East and Nas. The perfect word to describe the Nas segment of the episode is nostalgia. The Godson takes viewers on a rugged and winding path that begins with his own heritage and it expands to Nas yearning for the ability to recreate the energy of his youth. That’s where Dave East comes in. While the majority of the industry consistently leans on rappers who can make pop hits or ascend that charts, East keeps it street. He isn’t one of those New York rappers who may leave you confused as to where their heritage lies. You can tell you’re listening to a New York lyricist the moment East utters his first bar.
T.I. spends his entire chapter chasing the ghosts of civil rights leaders. His episode feels painfully relevant in today’s political climate, and T.I. immaculately maneuvers his vision after scrapping an entire album to begin work on a more socially aware project. The politically and racially charged episode feels authentic and natural, and explores controversial topics without making the viewer feel like they’re being hit with a propaganda piece. Rapsody’s episode also feels natural. The young starlet, whose lyrical ability is far beyond the majority of today’s talent, details her fight for respect in a male-dominated industry. At no point does this chapter feel like a “woman’s empowerment” piece, but instead, it plays like an accurate underdog story.
The documentary falters on G-Eazy and A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie’s episodes though. G-Eazy spends the majority of his episode making cliché observations that sound almost forced. His music and fashion sense are slick and polished, but the conversational portions of his chapter feel scripted. The same goes for A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie’s piece. The young rapper is talented, no doubt, but his method of storytelling feels bland. Compared to the stronger episodes, that bring a strong sense of emotion, G-Eazy and A Boogie fall short.
The 2 Chainz and Just Blaze episodes are entertaining, but the disparity between directors can be felt heaviest on these chapters. These two episodes play differently than the rest, and that’s neither a good thing or a bad thing. That is the risk of releasing an anthology series that features different directors, but the overall production of the series does deliver astonishing entertainment although it lacks on cohesiveness. Rapture is directed by Sacha Jenkins, Geeta Gandbhir, Ben Selkow, Marcus A. Clarke, Gabriel Noble, and Steven Caple Jr.
Rapture drops on Netflix March 30.