RAPture - TV Review
In Three Words: Deep, Storytelling, Culture
Can we just take a moment to recognise how much effort the good people at Netflix are putting in when it comes to Hip-Hop recently? They have really given us some great and original Hip-Hop content over the past few years. More than what actual TV Networks have done for sure.
This show is a great example of documenting the culture. Which just so happens to be part of the ethos of this site. Eight Episodes, Eight lyricists talking about their story, their art, and the game that they chose to live by, which we call Hip-Hop. I will go episode by episode, giving my thoughts about it all. So... Let's begin with the first episode.
Episode 1 - Logic - Grey Matters
So if you're a fan of Logic, you know his story inside out. That is what I personally like about Logic, because he genuinely puts everything about him in whatever project he works on. He's dropped a project every year since 2009, which I consider an amazing feat considering how dense his rapping is.
The episode is directed by rising star Steven Caple Jr, who is currently filming Creed 2. The episode overall covers the release and subsequent tour of his latest album "Everybody". His most successful album to date. We see the people around him from his producer to his manager to his wife (Now, unfortunately in the process of breaking off) chatting about Logic's process musically, to how he treats his fans and how his anxiety sometimes cripples him.
This is a good introduction to the series as a whole. The fact that it is a person that is different from most rappers these days really tells you what this show wants to do. Not all rappers bring out 11 year olds to do "Flexicution" from start to finish. There's a lot of things to love about Logic, and if you can't vibe with that, there's a lot of things that you should respect about Logic.
And boy. Watching "1-800" being performed live and watching people in the crowd cry is very powerful. It's crazy how powerful that song is. Whenever I hear that song I try to wrap my head around how many lives that song did.
Episode 2 - Nas & Dave East - The Bridge
This was an episode that I was really anticipating (I can say that for every episode but roll with me) because it wasn't just about one artist. It's covering two. And the contrast between these two in terms of longevity was something that fascinated me before I even pressed play. Nas, rap legend & Dave East, up and comer. I didn't know how this was going to be tackled.
I guess it's no surprise that "Bridging The Gap" was the first thing heard eh.
The first 20 minutes is all about Nas, basically following him around, watching him getting his haircut, talking to Large Professor & Killer Mike, it's honestly a little uneventful excluding the story his brother Jungle tells at the beginning of the episode. But in comes Dave East, bringing the energy. Nas doesn't mince words, he believes Dave is the next great rapper.
Dave has a story like none other. As a young man he played basketball at the same time Kevin Durant was playing. He went to College but his attitude got out of control. He went to jail, bounced around but lucky for him, found rapping. His parents are great, having them telling stories really made this episode fun to watch and learn about Dave.
At the time of filming, you quickly realise that he isn't in the hood anymore. He has his daughter, he has his new home, the fruits are already there for Dave. But you know we had to get more from Dave, so we went to his old home in Ravenswood, having his cousin and a few friends sharing a few stories. That is when his daughter isn't being "a Flintstone".
But the episode really got going once Nas & Dave got together on camera. A key part was the two talking the people that were with them when they had nothing. What do you do when your lyrics take you to heights you could only dream of but you can't take care of everybody that were with you while you were writing those lyrics. That was a real highlight of this episode for me.
If this episode tells you anything, it's that these are two lyricists that wrote their way out. It's poetic that the song of the same name with them two, Aloe Blacc & Lin-Manuel Miranda was the final part of this episode. But the episode is also about roots and to stay aware that you started somewhere. With that said, it's no accident that Nas went to Louisiana and that the episode started & ended with Nas' brother Jungle in shot.
Episode 3 - T.I. - Taking A Stand
T.I is one of those artists that I know of, I have heard some of his music, but I don't know him as much as I probably should. So I went into this episode wanting to learn more about him. The first scene immediately gives the mission of the next hour. How can the father of Trap music also be a family man, a community leader and an activist? Hopefully this episode answers.
We start with family and where he came from. Giving anecdotes of the good and also the bad. You immediately realise that he is a good storyteller. From selling candy in school came selling drugs, its clear that he's done a lot. David Banner really elucidates on that. But from a very young age, he knew that he wanted to be an entertainer, he was destined for it.
This show is very similar to Logic's episode. Where Logic sets out to find happiness for himself and giving his fans the good message of Peace, Love & Positivity. T.I sets out to raise his family with good morals & raise his community up whether it be talking to local children or talking to the Congressional Black Caucus. The latter is certainly epitomised with his conversation with Representative Maxine Waters, asking her "How can I help you to help us?". Then the episode dips into his activism. This is something that T.I admitted that he was inexperienced in, so who better to go to, than to talk to Harry Belafonte.
The best part of the conversation between the two was about the excess, specifically T.I's chains. It was a fascinating back and forth where even though T.I wore the diamonds & gold, he had pictures of his children & family at the end of them. I think that is what I like about T.I, he may flex like many other rappers, but it's with a purpose.
From Belafonte comes his conversation with Jane Elliott, comes "Us Or Else", comes his conversation with Andrew Young. This episode is all about his growth. With all the police shootings in recent years, T.I has gained the thirst to learn about being more than a father and a rapper. He wants to help the community in more ways than giving talks. Now let's not get it twisted, he's not going to get to MLK levels, but with his stature, voicing up is 1,000 times better than staying silent and keeping it moving.
Episode 4 - G-Eazy - Worldwide Amplified
Bay Area MC G-Eazy is an artist I only know of because Bay Area legends like E-40 & Too Short mess with him heavy. I don't listen to his music, but his story stacks up with the rest of the ones we have watched so far. Part of the MySpace generation, G-Eazy may have only blown up recently, but he's been writing and producing his own music for over a decade.
What you gather quickly is that he is a hard worker, E-40 hypes him up a lot which is understandable because Eazy hails the Bay Area legends from the jump. The episode itself hovers around his first time going to South America, to Lollapalooza Brazil. You quickly gather that people aren't there for him but what is great about Festivals and shows is that you get introduced to people and from the live show, it looked like Brazil was messing with him.
What I enjoyed about this episode is how new fame is to him. Watching him take pictures with fans, it's enjoyable at the start, but you can see his face as it gets gradually more and more frustrating. To the very awkward point where a girl gets on her tiptoes for a kiss and he backs up. Yea... Very awkward.
And then came the basement story. It really threw me off guard if I'll be honest. I have a feeling it is something that his fans didn't know about until he dropped "Everything Will Be OK". His mother said "He became an artist with that song" and I agree. Until you can put your demons onto wax, you have reached a higher plane. It is the same with every art. Dancing, acting, writing, whatever.
New found respect for G-Eazy, maybe I'll peep his music now after watching this.
Episode 5 - 2 Chainz - Sleep When U Die
This episode was interesting in how it was straight after G-Eazy. Both of them want you to know that they put in the work. But the difference is that Chainz never wants stress with it. Living by the ethos that doing what you love shouldn't give you stress.
But the backstory for him was very similar to T.I. Living in the trap life. His mother and father sold drugs, his father got pinched. He tells one story about some undercover police raiding or "Blitzing" his house when he was 12. Accompanied with news footage, the "Red Dogs" were this near militaristic Police unit, so infamous in his area that he guaranteed if you asked anybody that grew up where "Red Dogs" were, they'd have a story to tell. He wasn't lying. He called out to his cousin Cat and said "Red Dogs". It was like a dam busted, he flooded out with how it always went down. They're so infamous, 2 Chainz freezes in fear whenever he sees a Bread Truck, regardless of colour.
Backstory aside, the episode also follows the promotion of his album "Pretty Girls Like Trap Music" and the tour along with it. Now last year, he broke his leg a week before his tour was going to begin so the sweating about the tour was a big chunk of this episode. Minor tangent, I love his family and the dog Trappy. A nice part of this was when they headed out and actually forgot Trappy, so they needed to go back. Can't go anywhere without the dog.
So... The pink wheelchair. Can we just respect the fact that he went along with most of the tour instead of postponing the tour? Literally rolling up to Arizona with a pink wheelchair. That's some real resilience. Much respect for that.
This was a solid episode. It shows that 2 Chainz may look very run of the mill with the absurd amount of chains and jewellery, but there aren't many artists that would do their entire tour with a broken leg. This episode probably would've been a throwaway if he didn't have that angle.
Just a good ol' (Tity) Boy.
Episode 6 - Rapsody - Raising the Bars
This was the episode I was most anticipating. If you follow me on the relevant socials, you know that recently I saw Rapsody live at The Jazz Cafe in my birth-borough of Camden, North London along with the legendary 9th Wonder and fellow Jamla artist GQ. It was intimate and one of the best shows I've been to.
So when I head that she had an episode, I wanted to pay explicit attention to it, because Rapsody is one of my favourite artists doing it at the moment.
Straight away you get footage of Dr Dre & Kendrick Lamar shouting her out. Telling you right off the bat that "If you don't know, you will know by the end of this episode." She's a lyricist's lyricist. She wants to be the best lyricist. Notice how I didn't put "female" in front of it. That's the point of Rapsody and that is what you get from this episode. It made me smile watching her go backstage after a performance to talk to Common, and 9th in the background saying "She'll hoop you cuz!". And then her mother wanting to meet Common, it's those things that you can't help but smile to.
She made this point that really caught me and sits right in front of us when we talk about the females of the Golden Era. They were all distinctive and there was a sisterhood. Where MC Lyte could mess with a Foxy Brown and Lil Kim could jam to Latifah and it is clear with the Cardi/Nicki thing going on as I write this, that sisterhood isn't there right now. With that said, I always see Rapsody shouting out the females doing it now, it's good to see that she doesn't subscribe to this "There can only be one" mindset that we have and always have had.
It's clear where she gained this philosophy, watching her eat with her mother and her three aunts. They're a collective, Rapsody called them "The glue of the family". But even though she hails them, she wanted to rap. Her parents wanted her to be doctor or something "Normal" like that. When she saw MC Lyte's "Poor Georgie", it was a wrap. At University, she was part of a group called Kooley High and from that came the machine that is 9th Wonder. Watching her freestyle with her old group really made me think that was the quintessential RAPture episode. This is what I foresaw when I saw the trailer for this episode. Showcasing an artist that has literally just bloomed.
Halfway through this episode. You really start to see her go into overdrive with the art. No more reminiscing, now you're about to see why she is one of the best right now. From Jamla, to JamRoc, to saying to 9th "I want to get on tracks with legends." So in comes Big Daddy Kane, then Rah Digga. (Twice) Then she talks about her writing process. See what I mean when I say "Quintessential RAPture episode"?!
Another quote I liked was 9th saying that having Rapsody has been "The best idea of Gender Studies I've ever had". To this day, no matter how many female MC's tell us what it's like day to day or for all their career's how much weight is put on them, I don't think we can really understand unless you're someone like 9th that houses her on his label.
And obviously we had to see the Grammy nominations for "Laila's Wisdom". Watching the tweets going from "She aight but she ugly AF" to saying she has an album that contests Kendrick and Jay-Z. It really shows how far she as come. Salute to her. Loved this episode.
Episode 7 - Just Blaze - It's Lit!
Now this was an episode that caught my eye. Thinking "Just Blaze the producer?" How are they going to do an episode about a producer when this about Rappers?
I then preceded to slap myself in the face. Because producers are SO UNDERAPPRECIATED in Hip-Hop right now. You could say we are in a Golden Age for producers right now. I'll explain that in another article someday, but that's what I believe, so I then checked myself and got into this episode.
Some people may watch this, with Blaze repeating samples over and over and yawn at it. But he explains everything really well, the way he thinks, which is probably how many producers think. This is also the second appearance for Large Professor, who' Blaze consider a God in the way he talks about him. That homage is all there as Blaze hosts a Main Source Anniversary in NY. Another key moment in Blaze's growth was watching Havoc of Mobb Deep work on "Murda Muzik" & "Hell On Earth", which made him squirm because Havoc was more about finding a groove instead of being perfect from a musical standpoint.
I then realised this is episode isn't all about Just Blaze, it is almost Just Blaze hosting the episode, going over to host for Large Professor & talk about beats with Havoc. This is about producers which just so happened to have more Just Blaze than anything else. A great moment of this episode was him going over to his mother's and playing an unreleased demo tape that was still in the tape-deck. Imagine that, finding a recorder from the good ol' days after not seeing it for years. That must have given him shivers. And we couldn't have an episode of this nature without a bit of crate digging. The dude nearly bought the whole store out.
One thing that blew my mind was watching Blaze & Young Guru talk about their producing schedule that took up the whole day. Memphis Bleek in the morning, Jay-Z coming in at 2, Beanie coming after a night out. And seeing all the pictures of the packed rooms with all the names in NY Hip-Hop coming through. Looked like a crazy time.
This episode was different from the rest. In the scope of Hip-Hop History, Just Blaze is in the middle of the timeline. Where he is one of the children of the pioneers (Pete Rock, Large Professor etc.) and has been in the game long enough to inspire what is the next generation like DJ Mustard. He was a perfect fit for what this episode was made for.
Also RIP Prodigy. It's great they dedicated the episode to him.
Episode 8 - A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie - Uptown Baby
Final episode of this series. Covering a man who has literally started out on fire. "1st Year in the game" he says first thing. In the context of this series, this is all about looking out to the future. Covering somebody that has just started out. And I don't think it's a surprise that it all goes down in the birthplace of it all, The Bronx.
A Boogie is a superstar at home. Similar to that conversation Nas & Dave East had. He feels like he needs to get his people out of the hood. And to some extent, it's necessary. A moment that caught me was radio personality Ebro talking about them. These guys on Highbridge The Label were marketing geniuses. Every young person in NY wanted some A Boogie. The guy sold out BB King's for crying out loud! They caught a wave and managed to get a 50/50 deal with Atlantic. This is all in a 6 month period by the way. 4 Gold, 2 Platinum records and he hasn't even dropped an album yet.
He went back to Florida where his parents live, talking about his shyness and why they left New York. Something that you may have not known about A Boogie is that he has a daughter. Which is mad because the guy is half a year older than me. (22)
But what this episode really is about is covering the modern rapper. What you need to do in this social media era to really pop. Meeting business Guru Gary Vanyerchuk and the episode after that really brings this home. You need clicks, you need internet clout. As I have said in previous articles, that is a good thing and a bad thing. But this is all about how a 22 year old came into the game like Shaquille. Hopefully the rest of his career mirrors Shaq.
Final Thoughts: RAPture is a great laser focus on some of the best. The people picked for these eight episodes were great for different reasons. For people like Logic, Dave East, G-Eazy, A Boogie & Rapsody it was capturing their blooming as artists. Especially for Logic & Rapsody as first time Grammy nominees. For Nas, T.I, 2 Chainz & Just Blaze, it was about capturing their come ups and what they do to inspire now as established names in their respective fields. From a visual standpoint, the quality was high throughout. Big up all the directors for this. Steven Caple Jr, Marcus A. Clarke, Geeta Gandbhir, Sacha Jenkins, Gabriel Noble & Ben Selkow. Favorite episode? Probably either Logic or Rapsody. But all episodes had their high points for sure.