PBS Airs ‘Beyond Beats & Rhymes’

Filmmaker Byron Hurt addresses misogyny, sexual violence, masculinity, homophobia and racial stereotypes in hip-hop culture in his new documentary, “Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats & Rhymes.” PBS broadcast the hour-long program on its Emmy Award-winning Independent Lens series on Tuesday, February 20, and some stations will repeat it in coming days. Check local listings.

Hurt began production on “Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats & Rhymes” because he was concerned that hip-hop music and videos were becoming dominated by violent and sexually demeaning lyrics and images. He told the New York Times, “You still love hip-hop and you love to see the artists doing well, but then you ask, ‘What are they saying? What is the image of manhood?’”

In the documentary, Hurt interviews high level music and television executives, hip-hop artists, activists, students and young artists trying to break into the business in order to explore the complex ways that culture, gender and commerce intersect. The audience is left wondering who is responsible for disturbing images and for the misogynic and homophobic attitudes that prevail in hip-hop music.

He asks: Do you place blame on the women in the music videos, the few white high ranking executives who profit from hip-hop’s popularity, the artists who continue to make the music, or the consumers who buy the music and continue the cycle? Critics say the documentary is an important, engaging look at one of the most influential art forms of our time.

The documentary includes interviews with Mos Def, Chuck D, Busta Rhymes and Russell Simmons, among others. Dr. Beverly Guy-Sheftall of Spelman College says in it, “Generally speaking, black people do not believe that misogyny, sexism and violence against women are urgent issues. We still think that racism, police brutality and black male incarceration are the issues we should be concerned about.”

Hurt is a hip-hop fan, gender violence educator and former Northeastern University quarterback.

Learn more about the documentary at http://www.itvs.org/outreach/hiphop/. Check local listings to see when it will air at www.pbs.org/independentlens/broadcast.html. To order a copy, visit www.mediaed.org/videos/MediaGenderAndDiversity/HipHopBeyondBeatsAndRhymes.

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