Updated: Feb 9, 2020
Netflix's latest original documentary, "Hip-Hop Evolution" has recently been released via the streaming service as a surprising new addition to its burgeoning hip-hop history selection. This is the final part of a four-episode breakdown.
As Public Enemy grew more and more critical of America, hip-hop had spread nationwide. Due to Run-DMC, hip-hop was no longer a cultural thing, no longer a regional thing, it had become an industry. Los Angeles and its beach atmosphere were party central, their techno and rock scene reflecting that. While New Yorkers were in the apartments for house parties, Angelenos were in the roller rinks. The kings of the rinks was World Class Wreckin' Cru. A disco and R&B-influenced DJ team started by Alonzo Williams, the crew was spinning slow jams in sequin suits as Run-DMC was redefining rap.
In 1987, rap would be redefined once more as LA rapper Ice-T released his Schoolly D-influenced track "6 'N The Morning". Although Philadelphia's Schoolly D had released "PSK What Does It Mean?" in 1985, it was Ice-T's even more graphic interpretation of inner city life that would change music. As the crack epidemic strengthened LA's street gangs, the Crip-affiliated Ice-T documented daily LA life through this song. Inner city Los Angeles gravitated to the song, including the future of west coast hip-hop.
In 1986, two members of World Class Wreckin' Cru left the team to start NWA. Dr. Dre, DJ Yella knew each other via the crew, Ice Cube knew the two from being a member of Cru hip-hop group CIA with Dre's cousin Jinx. Eazy-E bailed Dre out of jail and MC Ren was a friend of Eazy. This wasn't the original line-up, as Arabian Prince had been a member and Yella and Ren were not. This is the line-up that had released the star-making "Straight Outta Compton". This album revolutionized and polarized America, with some hating the direction hip-hop had gone since its birth only eight years ago and others celebrating the voice that young black America had taken for itself.
After his exodus from NWA, Dr. Dre was a solo artist and producer. Through his label Death Row Records, Dr. Dre released The Chronic, which Shad refers to as a lyrical cookout. Fusing the party sound of old school hip-hop with the recent gangster lyrics over his signature G-Funk sound, Dr. Dre had created a classic in hip-hop, commercially and critically successful. Introducing Snoop Dogg's trademark laid-back flow and his own funky beats, Dr. Dre had redefined the genre once again. By mixing styles, he had finally made something palatable for everyone by making something for him and his style.
This is where Shad's well-made documentary ends. From the early 70s to the mid 90s, "Hip-Hop Evolution writes a pretty solid history on a genre and culture in only four hours.