Founding Fathers, A Documentary Narrated By Public Enemy’s Chuck D, Presents the True History of Hip Hop

Cranky, aging rock stars may kvetch and bitch, but it doesn’t real­ly mat­ter. Hip Hop is here to stay. The musi­cal rev­o­lu­tion that began in the Bronx has gone glob­al, acquired bil­lions of dol­lars in hold­ings, and pushed every oth­er form of pop­u­lar music to adapt to the world it cre­at­ed over the past sev­er­al decades. And whether you’re a casu­al fan or die-hard hip hop head, you’ve prob­a­bly learned a list of names—the names of the found­ing fathers of the genre: Grand­mas­ter Flash & The Furi­ous Five, Africa Bam­baataa, the Sug­ar Hill Gang, DJ Kool Herc, Kur­tis Blow….

The list goes on. Those are the inven­tors of rap, right? The men—and too often unsung women—who turned sev­en­ties dis­co, funk, and R&B into some­thing else entire­ly, who re-invent­ed NYC street and club cul­ture, and even­tu­al­ly the world with only their voic­es, dances, graf­fi­ti, atti­tudes, turnta­bles, and mobile sound sys­tems? Not exact­ly. Maybe it wasn’t the Bronx in the late ‘70s. Maybe it was Brook­lyn and Queens in the late ‘60s. And maybe the found­ing fathers had names like Grand­mas­ter Flow­ers, Nu Sounds, King Charles, Mas­ter D, Charis­ma Funk.…

Nev­er heard of ‘em? You’re not alone. The doc­u­men­tary above, Found­ing Fathers—nar­rat­ed by Chuck D of the immor­tal Pub­lic Enemy—makes the case that these obscure pio­neers did it first, and nev­er received the cred­it they deserve after the uptown artists picked up their styles and ran with them. The claim is attest­ed not only by vet­er­ans of this orig­i­nal Brook­lyn par­ty scene, but also by New York scen­ester Fab 5 Fred­dy and Queens his­to­ri­an Dan­ny Wells (who traces the ori­gins of the genre back to Louis Arm­strong, Mal­colm X, and the Black Pan­thers), among oth­er observers—and by the end of the film, you’ll have a very dif­fer­ent under­stand­ing of where the music came from.

We learn that rap­ping began in 1970 with the rhyming pat­ter of radio and club DJs, who imi­tat­ed and one-upped each oth­er in friend­ly com­pe­ti­tion over dis­co records, then cre­at­ed the call-and-response refrains that char­ac­ter­ized the genre ear­ly on. And the musi­cal “mixol­o­gy” of hip hop began at the end of the ’60s with Brook­lyn DJ Grand­mas­ter Flowers—“the first Grandmaster”—who got his start in pub­lic parks. DJing then evolved into an almost ath­let­ic event with twin broth­ers The Dis­co Twins. Con­struct­ed main­ly from inter­views and archival footage, Found­ing Fathers presents a his­to­ry of hip hop that you’ve nev­er heard before, one cre­at­ed by local stars who did­n’t achieve world­wide fame and glo­ry, but who nonethe­less for­ev­er changed the way the world sounds.

Found­ing Fathers (made avail­able on Found­ing Fathers Youtube chan­nel) will be added to our list of Free Doc­u­men­taries, a sub­set of our col­lec­tion 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

via Kot­tke

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Rick Rubin Revis­its the Ori­gins of Def Jam Records & the NYU Dorm Room Where It All Began

How ABC Tele­vi­sion Intro­duced Rap Music to Amer­i­ca in 1981: It’s Painful­ly Awk­ward

All Hail the Beat: How the 1980 Roland TR-808 Drum Machine Changed Pop Music

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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