Beyond Beats and Rhymes: Masculinity in Hip Hop Culture
This 60 min. documentary was previewed recently at Sundance and has
been picked up by PBS to be shown later this year. Through his
documentary, Byron presents images, samples and interviews that he
hopes will expose and take apart the structures of violence, hyper-
aggression, and misogyny present in much of today's hip hop.
"So much of the ills in our society come from the way we men define
manhood," says Byron, adding, "I want this film to really get men to
question and to challenge the way we're socialized and conditioned."
Byron stresses the need to educate boys and men about what it means
to be male in our society. Encouraging such discussion, he believes, has
the possibility to spark important social change.
In the process of making the film, Byron interviewed a number of male
rappers -- from LL Cool J, Wyclef Jean, and Fat Joe to Chuck D, Talib
Kweli, and Mos Def. He also spoke with a variety of hip-hop scholars
and historians, and tried to take on some of the major decision makers
in the hip-hop industry. Perhaps most poignant, however, are his
interactions with kids. In one scene, Byron captures the voices of
several young aspiring rappers spewing out words of hate, violence,
and sexism for the camera. When Byron challenges them, they are un-
phased. " That's how you get paid," they respond, implying, no one
wants to hear anything positive, so why even try?
"I'm not naive," says Byron. "I don't think my film is going to change
the industry. It's an amoral business culture. They're not concerned
with changing society, they're concerned with making money. So I
focused on how this affects the people who see this film." Byron hopes
this practical approach will inspire viewers to open their minds and be
self-reflective. "It's up to us as consumers to challenge some of the
representations of masculinity that we see in American culture."