(Pocket-lint) - When Netflix dropped The Defiant Ones - the four-part documentary backstory focused on Beats-founder legends Dr Dre. and Jimmy Iovine - it opened the door to insight rarely seen, spanning hip hop's evolving world over the years.

Wonderful as that documentary is, there's a whole heap of history and culture to hip hop - you can't explore it in four hours. So if you crate dig a little deeper, there are lots of other hip hop documentaries worth watching. Here we round up some of the best ones worth seeking out.

Hip-Hop Evolution

  • Where: Netflix
  • When: Available now

We first watched Shad Kabango's documentary and loved that it goes back to the roots - to where hip hop truly started - interviewing some of the scene's instigators.

Somehow we then missed that the show spans four seasons - the last of which was released in 2017, there's no word on a season five as yet - covering a wide variety of history and geography. From the east/west beef, to the south, it explores hip hop's variety throughout the United States.


  • Where: Netflix
  • When: Available now

"Hip hop is about being truthful". This Netflix docu-series explores '9 icons' - Nas & Dave East, Just Blaze, Rapsody, Logic, T.I., G-Eazy, 2 Chainz, A Boogie With Da Hoodie - in their own words, their own stories.

Beastie Boys Story

  • Where: Apple TV+
  • When: Available now

The most recent documentary on this list - and reason enough to grab an Apple TV+ subscription in itself - the New York group formed in the 1980s and was widely regarded as one of the acts to crossover genres, fusing rap, rock, and beyond.

Directed by world-renowned Spike Jonez, this documentary captures 40 years of the group's friendship and career in a way that only such a filmmaker could present it.

LA Originals

  • Where: Netflix
  • When: Available now

Hip hop isn't just about the music, it's about the wider culture. This feature-length documentary captures the life of tattoo artist Mister Cartoon and photographer Estevan Orio, and the way in which they became entwined in the history of the music through tours and high-profile endorsements of their work.

If you're a Cypress Hill fan, in particular, then this is one to watch - as Mister Cartoon's work on their albums and bodies, and Orio's documenting of the band's shows before other photographers even had the access - is something that you won't see in detail elsewhere.


  • Where: Amazon Prime (US)
  • When: Available now

Scratching is synonymous with hip hop DJing. This incredible documentary by Doug Pray from back in 2001 is harder to come by (a DVD purchase would be worth it, if you must) but digs deep on the evolution of the scratch, crate digging, sampling and how the culture was so different in a pre-digital era.

Worth tuning into this feature-length documentary to get a deeper look at DJ Shadow's old hunting grounds; record shops that are no longer still in existence. It's a great freeze-frame of a slice of hip hop culture that, in many respects, no longer exists either.

Stretch And Bobbito: The Radio That Changed Lives

  • Where: YouTube (rental)
  • When: Available now

The radio show that was like no other. During the 1990s, this duo's impact on the airwaves established big-name hip hop artists. They got Nas, Jay-Z and many more into the public's ears before they were signed. It wasn't just their knack for selecting the up-and-coming talent, though, it was their enthusiasm and outright humour that also established their loyal fanbase.


  • Where: Netflix
  • When: Available now

While not explicitly hip hop, this documentary, which profiles jazz artist and pop producer Quincy Jones, digs deep into his private life, with stories in abundance. Hip hop is all about taking inspiration from multiple sources, so Quincy makes it onto our list as a documentary worth watching in its own right.

Writing by Mike Lowe.
Sections TV