11 of the best rap and hip-hop films to watch right now
© Ryan Muir / Red Bull Sound Select / Content Pool
From lectures by some of hip-hop's most important names to inspiring stories from rap scenes around the world, these hip-hop movies are available to watch online or download for free.
Hip-hop has come a long, long way since DJ Kool Herc pioneered the music at his Bronx block parties in the '70s. Over the past few decades the genre has transformed itself into one of the world’s most dominant sounds. It’s no longer just a US thing, either. Right now, there are rappers and producers in every corner of the world, touching millions of people’s lives. And this means there are some incredible stories to tell.
From community-minded underground rap artists and buzzing hip-hop scenes in South America and Asia to intense battle-rap showdowns and legendary hip-hop names talking candidly about their careers, we've collected the most inspiring movies and lectures from the worlds of hip-hop and rap in no particular order.
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Before filming the hip-hop documentary Underdogs, French film-maker Téo Frank was better known for shooting extreme sports films and collaborating with stars like Serena Williams. But a chance meeting with music manager Mason Strehl at an Alaskan petrol station while on holiday changed everything.
Strehl told Frank about a group of underground hip-hop artists signed to Portland, Maine, record label Don’t Sleep, transfixing the French visitor. Inspired by the story around this supportive network of rappers and producers, 18-year-old Frank spent the next two years following Awon, Phoniks, Tiff The Gift and Dephlow, capturing their drive to succeed on their own terms and the hard work they put into supporting their community. Underdogs is the award-winning document of that journey.
Exclusive making of NFX's X
Matias Moena, aka NFX, is one of South America’s best-known rappers. Emerging from Chile's vibrant hip-hop scene, NFX – who's nicknamed the 'Karate Kid of Rap' – earned a reputation for himself by combining hip-hop's old-school, Golden Age style with a modern-day Latino flow. The film above captures the buzz around NFX and the wider Chilean rap scene, as the young MC hires out a beach house in Cuba to record his third album, X.
3. Red Bull Studios Sessions: The Twista Edition
The Twista Edition
These days, Chicago is one of hip-hop’s main breeding grounds. Kanye West, Common, Chance The Rapper, Chief Keef, Mick Jenkins, Vic Mensa, G Herbo, Noname – the list of huge names that have come out of the city is endless. But before all of those, one rapper in particular got the ball rolling for Chicago: Twista.
Famous for rapping at incredible speeds in a style called 'chopping', Twista – the World’s Fastest Rapper – has, over 30 years of pushing the boundaries of lyrical dexterity, won Grammys and collaborated with everyone from Kanye and Cam’ron to Mariah Carey and Trey Songz.
4. No More Normal
No More Normal
Released on Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood Recordings, No More Normal is a record that captures everything that's exciting about modern-day urban music right now. Helmed by prolific dubstep and grime artist Swindle, this 2018 album was an ambitious cross-genre collaboration that saw the British producer fusing together all the musical styles that matter most to him, from grime and house to reggae, soul and jazz.
Featuring grime MCs P Money, Ghetts and D Double E, UK hip-hop star Kojey Radical, singer Kiko Bun, and new-jazz stars Nubya Garciaand Yussef Dayes, Swindle described the album as like "A class photo of 2018" – but it's one that refuses to age. No More Normal, the film, follows Swindle throughout the music-making process as he realises his grandest vision to date.
5. Asia Rising
“Hip-hop is now more than just US hip-hop and the whole world is getting closer. Koreans, Chinese – everyone is doing rap,” say Higher Brothers, the Chinese hip-hop group dubbed the Asian Migos. Jonathan Lim’s Asia Rising documentary film proves their point.
The film explores the boom in hip-hop right across Asia by introducing China's Higher Brothers group, Indonesia’s Dat $tick rapper Rich Brian, female MCs Awich and Suboi, Osaka’s Jin Dogg and South Korea's Keith Ape. With Ghostface Killah, Travis Scott and ScHoolboy Q all jumping on verses with rappers from the region, it's clear that Asian hip-hop is no novelty.
6. Remix Lab
With six studio albums to his name, including the 2007 Billboard chart-topper Epiphany, rapper and producer T-Pain knows a thing or two about making a hip-hop banger. Which makes him the perfect host of Red Bull Remix Lab. Watch as he invites guests artists into the studio to create a freshly remixed track live with input from the Twitch community.
In-demand rap producer Wheezy, who's worked with Young Thug, Future, Migos and Drake, is just one of several stellar names from the world of hip-hop who drops by. Look out for episodes starring Cardo, Murda Beatz, Danny Wolf and Kenny Beats.
7. Algo Está Pasando: 30 years of rap in Chile
Algo Está Pasando
NFX and his peers might represent Chile’s vibrant modern-day hip-hop scene, but there was a time not all that long ago when it wasn’t always easy to listen to rap music in the South American country – let alone perform it.
This fascinating rap documentary uses old footage of b-boys breaking in Santiago’s Bombero Ossa Alley and important live concerts from the past, plus interviews with scene pioneers like Claudio Flores and Jimmy Fernández, to explain how Chile broke free of dictatorship to become a centre of South American hip-hop.
8. Adventures in Odyssey
Adventures in Odyssey
Named after the debut album, Adventures in Odyssey, by Danish-British R ‘n’ B duo RoseGold, this film tells the story of how London-born brothers Joshua and Ephraim started making music together and how growing up in a strict Christian family both hampered and inspired their music-making.
Adventures in Odyssey follows the Denmark-based brothers on a trip to the UK and the places that helped the duo find their way and break free of their "Fort-Knox-like" home.
9. Red Bull Music Academy Lectures
For 20 years, Red Bull Music Academy's lecture series travelled the world coaxing words of wisdom out of the most pioneering names in music. Among them were a huge number of rappers and producers without who hip-hop might not be the dominant music genre it is today.
In the lecture above, one of the greatest MCs ever to grave the mic, Rakim, discusses rap's early days, hip-hop's much-heralded golden era and the various challenges of the music industry. You can also find must-see lectures from A Tribe Called Quest's Q-Tip, The Roots’ Questlove, former Clipse rapper Pusha T, MF Doom, original gangster and one of rap’s first agent provocateurs, Ice T, plus producers Mike WiLL Made-It and No I.D., and the man who directed Kanye West's Gold Digger video, Hype Williams.
10. Mark Grist Battles the World
Mark Grist Battles the World
Freestyle rap is littered with pivotal battles, from Kool Moe Dee vs Busy Bee and Iron Solomon vs Math Hoffa to the annual showdowns that take place at Red Bull Batalla de los Gallos. Another stone-cold classic is teacher-turned-battle-rapper Mark Grist’s ding-dong with MC Blizzard – one of the most viewed UK rap battles of all time. In fact, such is Grist’s pedigree as a wordsmith that his rap battle videos have been viewed more than 30 million times.
Mark Grist Battles the World sees the UK poet and MC put his improvised rap skills to the ultimate test, as he takes on battle rappers from the Philippines’ FlipTop Battle League, including MC Loonie, one of the most viewed rap battlers in the world. Hit play to see who comes out on top.
11. The Post Up
The Post Up
A few years ago, artist and graphic designer Jay Shells started immortalising some of the most important rap lyrics in hip-hop on street corners around New York and Los Angeles. Using lines dropped by Nas, Snoop Dogg, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA, and Jay-Z, Shells' Rap Quotes street signs told the story of both hip-hop evolution and the places that inspired the music.
In The Post Up, Shells is joined by rappers Joey Bada$$ and Masta Ace, as he uses his art to explain the historical significance of hip-hop in the areas that influenced its most important names.