Beyond Beats and Rhymes: A Hip-Hop Head Weighs in on Manhood in Hip-Hop Culture

Director: Byron Hurt
Screenwriters: Byron Hurt

Institute History


At its root, hip-hop is a politically charged music born from explosive frustration in the South Bronx, a community cast aside by a power structure that left it impoverished. How did this urgent, political message of hip-hop transform into the gangbanging, drug-lording, misogynistic gangster rap that dominates urban radio today? And how did gangster rap become the predominant voice and model of black masculinity? Filmmaker Byron Hurt addresses these questions in his remarkably insightful and articulate documentary Beyond Beats and Rhymes.

A former jock and ladies man who loves hip-hop, Hurt embarks on a journey into himself and his community, taking an in-depth look at machismo in rap music. He leaves no stone unturned, speaking with cultural critics, aspiring rappers, black kids on spring break, white suburban youth, music-industry executives, and rap stars like Russell Simmons and Chuck D. Together, the interviews explore how black masculinity came to be popularly defined through the cannibalistic black-on-black animosity and violent, homophobic aggression in contemporary rap music.

Beyond Beats and Rhymes unveils a reality bordering on the surreal—an Americana that is historically and unconsciously identified with violence, a wounded black community fiercely refusing to admit defeat, and a corporate power structure that has adopted gangster rap as its black face.

— Shari Frilot

Screening Details


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