As hip-hop continues to fracture into factions and subcategories along long-existing generational and regional fault lines and newer, more hazily-defined delineations, it becomes increasingly more difficult to determine: Just what is hip-hop, anyway? The genre, in some respects, sounds nothing like the revolutionary music of the ’80s and ’90s, yet in the the 2010s is no less groundbreaking, innovative, original, and rebellious. Still, for an outsider looking in — or even for an insider looking around at all the changes and new figures cropping up that have changed rap’s musical landscape over the last three decades — it can be a chore to make sense of it all.
Fortunately, documentarian Sacha Jenkins, creative director of Mass Appeal magazine and co-founder of Ego Trip, has just the remedy. His Netflix show, Rapture, co-produced with Mass Appeal founder Peter Bittenbender and Ben Selkow, just released its first complete season detailing the lives and music of some of rap’s currently prominent figures. From veterans like Nas and T.I. to newcomers like Logic, Dave East, and Rapsody, the show documents some of rap’s most popular acts. While the first season touches on some of hip-hop’s mainstream heavyweights, Jenkins has ambitious plans for the future of Rapture, expanding its scope to include international stars like the UK’s Skepta and fast-rising internet sensations such as Tekashi 69.
As a huge fan of both Jenkins’ prior work with Ego Trip (ego trip’s Book of Rap, ego trip’s Big Book of Racism, The (White) Rapper Show, and Miss Rap Supreme) and Rapture (including most of the rappers profiled in the first season), I was honored to interview the legendary writer, director, musician, and historian about the inspiration behind the show, its plans for the future, and using the stories presented in its eight episodes to hopefully bridge the gaps between hip-hop’s new and old schools. Over the course of our conversation, he imparted wisdom that went way beyond just the music, style, and language of hip-hop, delving into just what it is that has made the genre and culture such an enduring, global phenomenon.