The second installment in this four-part miniseries, airing as part of Vh1's Rock Doc series, focusing on the evolution and cultural impact of hip-hop and rap music, based on Steve Stoute's nonfiction book of the same title. In this episode, which examines 1987-1992, Sean "Diddy" Combs discusses the impact of Dapper Dan, the Harlem-based tailor whose 24-hour boutique gained fame for selling designer duds to the hustlers and rappers of the day and created a "ghetto fabulous" attitude. The Beastie Boys, comprised of three white Jewish kids from New York, soon gained popularity, and Rick Rudin explains how Jews, also long regarded as "outsiders," were heavily involved in civil rights issues as well as jazz, blues and other traditionally black areas of culture. Rudin and Russell Simmons promoted the Boys by sending them on tour with Run DMC, and the Boys then in turn promoted Public Enemy. Public Enemy added political themes to their songs, addressing the crack cocaine epidemic, gang violence and police brutality. N.W.A., based in California, rapped about similar issues, and Dr. Dre notes that their lyrics provided whites with "a safe glimpse of the hood," though the group received an official letter from the FBI denouncing their content. Jonathan Shecter explains how he and David Mays ran a small rap radio show at Harvard University and eventually created a hip-hop magazine, The Source, which soon became highly influential.

Movies like "Colors" (1988) and Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing" (1989) frankly addressed similar racial issues, as did works by Mario Van Peebles, son of Melvin. John Singleton made Oscar history when he was nominated for Best Director at age twenty-two for "Boyz n the Hood" (1991), and "Yo! MTV Raps" premiered in 1987, hosted by Fab 5 Freddy. Upon learning that the Grammys did not intend to televise the hip-hop portion of the show, a number of artists decided to boycott and instead threw a massive party in Los Angeles, prompting a change in the following year's show. "The Arsenio Hall Show" premiered in 1989 and provided many artists, including a young Mariah Carey, with important exposure to wide audiences. Keenan Ivory Wayans created, wrote and appeared in "In Living Color" in 1990, and the show featured musical performance and dances by the Fly Girls as well as sketch comedy. Rap star Will Smith starred as a comedic version of himself in "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," which premiered in 1990, and invited a number of other hip-hop artists to appear on the series over its six-year run. "User-friendly" rap stars MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice appeared on the scene in 1990, and though "U Can't Touch This" and "Ice Ice Baby" were successful hits, the artists were not highly regarded by the hip-hop community.

The popularity of rap soon rose to "painful extremes" in mainstream culture, even appearing in animated cereal advertisements, and athlete Michael Jordan appeared in commercials with Spike Lee to promote Nike sneakers and became a national hero. At the same time, however, racial violence continued, highlighted in cases like that of the Central Park Jogger, in which several young black men were arrested for raping a white woman, Trisha Meili. An offhand comment about Tone Loc's song "Wild Thing" was interpreted as "wilding," which was then incorrectly believed to be a popular violent youth pastime. "Fuck tha Police" by N.W.A. and "Cop Killer" by Body Count were decried for inciting violence, though the videotaped 1991 beating of Rodney King by the LAPD revealed that the songs' accusations were not at all inaccurate. "The Cosby Show" concluded in 1992, and Presidential candidate Bill Clinton was soon embraced by the black community for his awareness of different cultural issues, sharply different from that of Ronald Reagan, as well as his musical appearance on "Arsenio." Clinton gave credit to younger, MTV-watching voters for his 1992 win, and Toni Morrison stated, in a comment that would later become highly ironic, that Clinton was the first and likely only "black President." Commercials deleted.


  • DATE: 11:00 PM
  • RUNNING TIME: 0:35:45
  • COLOR/B&W: Color
  • CATALOG ID: 122151
  • GENRE: Documentary
  • SUBJECT HEADING: African-American Collection - Music
  • SERIES RUN: Vh1 - TV series, 2014


    • Brad Abramson … Executive Producer
    • Stephen Mintz … Executive Producer
    • Susan Levison … Executive Producer
    • Shelly Tatro … Executive Producer
    • Ben Zurier … Executive Producer
    • Steve Stoute … Executive Producer, Based on the book by
    • Alfred Spellman … Producer
    • Billy Corben … Producer, Director
    • Sophie Duensing … Associate Producer
    • Hollann Joli Sobers … Line Producer
    • Carline Balan … Talent Producer
    • Brian Robertson … Music by
    • Dapper Dan … Interviewee
    • Sean "Diddy" Combs … Interviewee
    • Rick Rubin … Interviewee
    • Bill Adler … Interviewee
    • Dr. Dre … Interviewee
    • Jonathan Shecter … Interviewee
    • Ralph McDaniels … Interviewee
    • Ted Demme … Interviewee
    • Fab 5 Freddy … Interviewee
    • Mariah Carey … Interviewee
    • Al Sharpton … Interviewee
    • Steve Stoute … Interviewee
    • Ice-T … Interviewee
    • Touré … Interviewee
    • Beastie Boys
    • Public Enemy
    • N.W.A.
    • David Mays
    • Spike Lee
    • John Singleton
    • Mario Van Peebles
    • Will Smith
    • Arsenio Hall
    • Keenan Ivory Wayans
    • MC Hammer
    • Vanilla Ice
    • Michael Jordan
    • Trisha Meili
    • Tone Loc
    • Body Count
    • Rodney King
    • Ronald Reagan
    • Bill Clinton
    • Toni Morrison