Showtime Sets ‘Hip Hop 50’ Programming Initiative

Showtime's 'Hip Hop 50'
Showtime's 'Hip Hop 50' (Image credit: Showtime)

Showtime will chronicle the 50th anniversary of Hip Hop with a multi-year, cross-platform programming initiative, according to the premium TV service.

Showtime will team with entertainment company Mass Appeal for Hip Hop 50, which will feature unscripted series and features, podcasts and digital shorts that will run over the next three years, culminating with the 50th anniversary of the genre in 2023, according to Showtime. 

Hip Hop 50 will be an unprecedented multiplatform experience that is going to be absolutely essential, not only as a celebration of the genre but also as a cultural touchstone for our world,” Vinnie Malhotra, Executive Vice President of nonfiction programming, Showtime Networks Inc. said in a statement. “Showtime and Mass Appeal have curated a remarkably insightful – and emotional – series of programming, bringing new depth to the giants of Hip Hop and new exposure to the most important untold stories. We can’t wait to roll this out.”

As part of the Hip Hop 50 announcement, Showtime Documentary Films announced five projects premiering on the network under the umbrella, including (with network descriptions):

 --Push It will tell the multi-dimensional stories of women in Hip Hop, the industry and behind the scenes, exploring their journeys from the past, present and future. The project will take a deep dive into the ever-changing landscape and history through monumental dialogue from some of the most coveted talent in the game. Each piece will speak to the many stories of the women at the center who, while often silenced, pushed the boundaries of a male-dominated industry, choosing to fight and conquer the confinements built around their careers and artistic expression.

--Hits From the Bong (Dir. Estevan Oriol), the definitive Cypress Hill documentary, will track the lives and careers of the groundbreaking West Coast group whose unique sound, built on a hill of social consciousness and self-awareness, is cemented in the musical landscape of Hip Hop. From cultivating the flower to smoking it, Cypress Hill invented a movement with a unique sound that has cemented itself, forever etched in the musical landscape of Hip Hop, capturing an intensity yet calmness that the world was waiting for.

--Untitled Ralph McDaniels Documentary (Dir. David Shadi Perez) is a story about the longest running New York City-based TV show, Video Music Box, helmed by Ralph McDaniels. Since its debut in 1983, Video Music Box has remained a Hip Hop mainstay, with McDaniels (or “Uncle Ralph,” as he’s known to legions of fans) serving as a leading Hip Hop tastemaker and introducing viewers to names like Jay Z, Nicki Minaj and Nas long before they were icons of the genre. With four decades of never-before-seen footage, the film will take viewers back on a journey through Uncle Ralph’s professional triumphs while examining his personal scars.

--Rolling Like Thunder (Dir. Roger Gastman) plunges into the secret underground world and history of freight train and subway graffiti culture, uncovering stories of myth-like artists, fallen soldiers, oddball romances and battles with the law. As this art form’s widespread integration bursts through into mainstream vibrancy via subway and freight trains alike, the message of Hip Hop spreads far and wide across the country. The film explores the train graffiti subculture from turn-of-the-century markings to modern-day masterpieces, forever linking the art form with America’s landscape. Rolling Like Thunder reveals the anonymous outlaws of fright writing who put life and limb on the line for an obsession while giving voice to their opposition.

--Ricky Powell: The Individualist (Dir. Josh Swade) tells the against-all-odds-story of New York City photographer Ricky Powell, who rose to worldwide fame while capturing one of the wildest, most electric times in popular culture. Documenting the music, fashion and art scenes of the ‘80s and ‘90s in downtown New York, Powell became known as “The Rickster” – a man who wasn’t just covering the scene, he was the scene.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.