Reality through the Lens of Hip-Hop Cinema: A Closer Look at BLC 8.2


This post is part of a series that takes a closer look at the scholarship behind IU Press Journals. Primarily written by journal editors and contributors, posts may respond to articles, provide background, document the development process, or explain why scholars are excited about the journal, theme, or article.

Regina N. Bradley’s article, “Introduction: Hip-Hop Cinema as a Lens of Contemporary Black Realities,” from Black Camera’s newest issue, is now available on JSTOR & Project MUSE. Below, Regina elaborates on hip-hop culture as a visual medium and not as an afterthought behind hip-hop music.

I am excited to watch the new Tupac Shakur’s biopic All Eyez on Me. Like many others, I can tell you that on September 14 1996, the day after Shakur’s death, I participated in a neighborhood wide memorial service via listening to Shakur’s music blasted through open windows or car speakers and giving props to those who made homemade memorial T-shirts demanding that Shakur rested in peace. Shakur was special to me because I was in seventh grade, severely bullied, and just mentioning Shakur’s name at school was a lifeline. Tupac Shakur was part of my initiation as a member of hip-hop culture. All Eyez on Me is the next film in a line of films with a critical investment in hip-hop culture as a site of truth telling, nostalgia, community, and as a lens for contemporary black life. This is especially pertinent in considering how hip-hop reflects the tumultuous American social-cultural landscape plagued by flaring anxieties about race and class. When protesters chant “Black Lives Matter,” it is often accompanied by heavy synthesizers, bass kicks, and volition via hip-hop.

In the “Hip-Hop Cinema” Close-Up for the latest issue of Black Camera 8.2 (Spring 2017), we centered hip-hop culture as a visual medium and not as an afterthought behind hip-hop music (rap). Kenton Rambsy’s discussion of the Jay-Z album American Gangster inspired by the movie starring Denzel Washington is an exciting use of the literary method text-mining to bridge hip-hop aesthetics on and off screen. Further, we looked to update the definition of “contemporary” hip-hop cinema to be inclusive of films produced in the last decade. I. Augustus Durham’s auto ethnographic analysis of “new blackness” via the film Dope and R. Boylorn’s discussion of progressive black masculinity in Ryan Coogler’s debut film Fruitvale Station break significant ground in situating hip-hop as a framework for newer conversations about race and gender in film. Still, some of the films we engaged are deemed “hood classics,” such as Casarae Gibson’s analysis of hip-hop and police brutality in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing or Adam Haupt’s discussion of white supremacy in hip-hop super group N.W.A.’s biopic Straight Outta Compton. Brandon Manning’s analysis of hood masculinities and vulnerability in Ice Cube’s screenwriting debut Friday and Peter Kunze’s article on the animated film BéBé’s Kids interrogates hip-hop’s influence on race and identity at the end of the 20th century. 

Figure 01

Figure 01: Still of Frankie, Cleo, TeSean, and Stony
after a robbery, from 'Set It Off' (Gray, 1996)


Figure 01

Figure 02. Still of characters Malcolm, Diggy, and Jib
on bikes, from 'Dope' (Famuyiwa, 2015)


Figure 01

Figure 03. Still of Radio Raheem and his boom box,
from 'Do the Right Thing' (Lee, 1989)


Figure 01

Figure 04. Still of NWA being detained on the street by police, from 'Straight Outta Compton' (Gray, 2015)


Figure 01

Figure 05. Still of Khalil rapping,
from 'Bebe’s Kids' (Smith, 1992)


Figure 01

Figure 06. Still of Smokey and Craig on Craig’s porch,
from Friday (Gray, 1995).

Ultimately, I hope our Close-Up encourages people to have more in-depth conversations about how hip-hop intersects capitalism, agency, and racial performance in popular culture. In an era where America’s racial and cultural ambiguity are pushed as a façade instead of a hard-earned possibility, we need new language and cultural context to do the work necessary to address the fallacies and realities black people face in this current social-economic and political climate.

Regina N. Bradley is Assistant Professor of English and African Diaspora Studies at Kennesaw State University. Her work focuses on black popular culture, hip-hop, and the post-Civil Rights American South. She can be reached at

BLC 8_2_smallMore from Black Camera 8.2

Two Screenplays by Charles Burnett: Bless Their Little Hearts (1984) and Man in a Basket (2003)
James Naremore

Backup Singers, Celebrity Culture, and Civil Rights: Racializing Space and Spatializing Race in 20 Feet from Stardom
David Scott Diffrient

Queering The Mammy: New Queer Cinema's Version of an American Institution in Cheryl Dunye's The Watermelon Woman
Clitha Mason

CLOSE-UP: Hip-Hop Cinema

Introduction: Hip-Hop Cinema as a Lens of Contemporary Black Realities
Regina N. Bradley

From Boys to Men: Hip-Hop, Hood Films, and the Performance of Contemporary Black Masculinity 
Robin M. Boylorn

U, (New) Black(?) Maybe: Nostalgia and Amnesia in Dope 
I. Augustus Durham

“Fight the Power”: Hip Hop and Civil Unrest in Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing 
Casarae L. Gibson

“True to the Game”: Straight Outta Compton's Affirmation of White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy 
Adam Haupt

“We Don't Die, We Multiply”: Bebe's Kids, Hip-Hop Aesthetics, and Black Feature Animation
Peter C. Kunze

“And You Know This, Man!”: Love, Humor, and Masculinity in Friday
Brandon J. Manning

Jay Z's American Gangster
Kenton Rambsy 


Africultures Dossier: L'Arbre sans fruit / The Fruitless Tree by Aïcha Elhadj Macky: Woman among Mothers
Olivier Barlet and Translated by Beti Ellerson

Africultures Dossier: La Permanence / On Call, by Alice Diop
Olivier Barlet and Translated by Beti Ellerson


Traveling Gazes: Glocal Imaginaries in the Transcontinental, Transnational, Exilic, Migration, and Diasporic Cinematic Experiences of African Women
Beti Ellerson


L.A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema by Allyson Nadia Field, Jan-Christopher Horak, and Jacqueline Najuma Stewart
Review by: Delphine Letort and Ana-Catharina Santos Silva

Nollywood Central by Jade L. Miller
Review by: Añulika Agina 


Community Archiving with the National Black Programming Consortium
Robert Anen