Hip-hop’s greats have all been able to tell a story on wax, but a new documentary series gives fans a perspective that they otherwise wouldn’t see. Rapture, which hits Netflix on March 30, is a new eight-part documentary series by Mass Appeal that looks into the personal lives of the likes of Nas, Dave East, 2 Chainz, Just Blaze, Logic, Rapsody, T.I., G-Eazy, and A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie.
At a screening on Tuesday evening (March 20), nearly all of the hip-hop superstars of the series slowly began to fill the Metrograph theatre in New York City, taking photos and congregating in the lobby before moving to the theatre to watch the films. Nas, Dave East, 2 Chainz, Just Blaze, Rapsody, and T.I. all attended with friends and members of their respective entourages, while acts like Havoc (of Mobb Deep) and Statik Selektah also came out to support. Mass Appeal directors and producers including Sacha Jenkins, Peter Bittenbender, and Ben Selkow also attended, giving a brief introduction before the screening.
Tuesday’s event screened two of the eight episodes. The first gave a look into the lives of Nas and his Mass Appeal signee/mentee Dave East. Nas was filmed hanging out with his brother Jungle at the opening of Nas’ Los Angeles restaurant Sweet Chick, apartment hunting in New York City, in the studio with Killer Mike and Large Professor, and in New Orleans. Dave East was shown hanging out with his parents and with his daughter Kairi, in what appeared to be his parents’ home and around Queens.
Many of the attending artists left early because of the incoming nor’easter, so instead of the planned Q&A session after the first episode, the second episode was aired. That film documented T.I. building his knowledge as a budding activist and elder statesman of hip-hop. Mr. Grand Hustle is shown having meetings with some of the most important living civil rights activists in history: singer/writer Harry Belafonte, politician/diplomat Andrew Young, educator Jane Elliot, and congresswoman Maxine Waters. The screenings were followed with a reception, where artists, producers, directors and guests mingled while enjoying drinks and food.
Below, see five things we learned from each of the two films.
Nas’ brother Jungle was selling weight longer than he should have
The first film begins with Jungle while getting a haircut, narrating a story for the ages: he was still selling drugs, despite his brother already having a successful rap career and dating Kelis at the time. The result is a hilarious story that sees Jungle riding around with Nas and trying to discreetly get rid of a bag of drugs before they arrive at the airport. “That was the last time I did anything in the street,” Jungle said.
Nas mentors other artists in the studio
In one of the more moving scenes from the first film, Nas shares a studio session with Killer Mike, his one-time Mass Appeal signee as a member of the duo Run The Jewels. Killer Mike lets Nas hear an unreleased song called “Black Power White Powder,” which explains how every race in America has a past of illegal activity that helped them build their group’s history, but only black people’s history of drug dealing is used as a form of degradation.
After speaking to him about the idea and hearing the record, Nas advised Mike to integrate more of the information that Mike had shared with him in the song itself. “I hold Killer Mike really high,” Nas said in the documentary. “Voice, wordplay, telling you some shit. He has that thing, and not a lot of people have it.”
Dave East’s dad still thinks about his son’s potential basketball career
Dave East’s parents had multiple miscarriages before having Dave Jr. – named after his father – in 1988. “Dave was the swimmer,” his mother smiled. He played AAU basketball with the likes of Kevin Durant, and earned a college scholarship that he would later lose after becoming ineligible. He would later get caught up in the streets, serving a six-month prison stint before jump-starting his rap career. While Dave Sr. is grateful for his son’s new path, he wonders what could’ve been on the court. “He was a hell of a basketball player,” he said.
T.I.’s involvement in a protest was deeper than it seemed
A big part of T.I.’s involvement in social justice began after the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, two black men who were shot and killed by police. T.I. was driving by a protest in Baton Rouge, La. in July 2016 and was inspired to join the marchers. But when the protesters were driven to a standoff with police who had their hands on their holsters, T.I. led the protesters in a different direction, out of fear of them being hurt. They followed T.I. where he led them, inspiring him to become more active with his music and his community work.
T.I. had the same conversation with his son that most black parents do
Instances of unarmed black men being beaten or killed by police officers have littered headlines for all of America’s history — and most black parents find themselves eventually having a heart-to-heart conversation with their kids, telling them how to deal with police in a way that minimizes their chances of being hurt. T.I. may be wealthy, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have the same concerns. In the documentary, when his son Messiah turned 17, T.I. says he gave him the same talk. “Preparation is the antidote to that fear,” T.I. explained.