The Best Rap Documentary Films And Series

Pat Alexander
Updated February 10, 2024
Ranked By
961 votes
55 voters
Voting Rules
Vote up the best hip hop documentaries.

What is the best rap documentary film or series? When it comes to the history of rap music, there's nothing like a good hip hop documentary filled with amusing anecdotes, tales from the tour, and fun trivia about rappers and hip hop musicians. This list of the best rap documentaries for hip hop lovers includes documentary films and shows about all the best rappers and freestylers to ever grace the microphone. If you love rap music, but also want the scoop on your favorite hip hop stars, these great documentary films and docuseries about rap music are what you need. What are the best rap music documentaries of all time? What hip hop musicians do you love?

Whether you're interested in Tupac, Biggie, Dr. Dre, Eminem, Lil Wayne, Ice Cube, or especially A Tribe Called Called Quest, there's a great rap documentary movie out there for you. This list ranks the best documentaries about rap music. The hip hop documentaries featured on this list includes Beats, Rhymes & Life, Style Wars, Adult Rappers, Nas: Time is Illimatic, Rhyme & Reason, Something from Nothing, and even the Netflix rap documentary Biggie: I've Got a Story to Tell.

Vote up your favorite hip hop documentaries, and check back for new rap documentary releases.

Latest additions: Dear Mama
Over 50 Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of The Best Rap Documentary Films And Series
  • Rhyme & Reason
    1
    16 votes
    Rhyme & Reason is a 1997 documentary film about rap and hip hop. Documentary filmmaker Peter Spirer interviewed over 80 significant artists in rap and hip hop music. This documentary explores the history of hip hop culture, how rap evolved to become a major cultural voice, and what the artists have to say about the music's often controversial images and reputation. Interview subjects range from veteran old-school rappers, such as Kurtis Blow, KRS-One and Chuck D, to west coast rap icons Ice-T, Dr. Dre, and MC Eiht, to several current rap hitmakers, including Wu-Tang Clan, The Fugees, and Sean "Puffy" Combs. The film was released to 280 theaters, earning $1,608,277 during its theatrical run.
  • Nas: Time Is Illmatic is a 2014 documentary film directed by One9. The film recounts the circumstances leading up to Nas' 1994 debut album Illmatic.
  • A look back at the career of the Wu-Tang Clan on the 25th anniversary of their breakout debut album.
  • Backstage
    4
    Film (2000)
    16 votes
    An exclusive invite to experience the uncensored raw energy and behind-the-scenes reality of one of hip hop's most exciting and historic multi-artist tours: the star-studded 1999 Hard Knock Life Tour fearing headliners Jay-Z and DMX along with Method Man, Redman, Ja Rule and Beanie Sigel, as well as rap's blazing femme fatale, Amil. This is an eye-opening inside look at backstage life on the hip-hop road.
  • Welcome to Death Row is a 2001 documentary film directed by S. Leigh Savidge and Jeff Scheftel. The true story of the rise and fall of Death Row Records.
  • Wild Style
    6
    14 votes
    Wild Style is a 1983 hip hop film produced by Charlie Ahearn. Released theatrically in 1983 by First Run Features and later re-released for home video by Rhino Home Video, it is regarded as the first hip hop motion picture. The film featured seminal figures within the given period, such as Fab Five Freddy, Lee Quiñones, Lady Pink, the Rock Steady Crew, The Cold Crush Brothers, Queen Lisa Lee of Zulu Nation, Grandmaster Flash and Zephyr. The protagonist "Zoro" is played by New York graffiti artist "Lee" George Quiñones. The year 2013 marked the 30th anniversary of the film and a Blu-ray edition was slated for release to include various interviews and additional features.
  • Beef
    7
    Film
    16 votes
    Beef is a 2003 film that documents the history of hip-hop feuds. The film's producers were Peter Spirer, Casey Suchan and Denis Henry Hennelly and the executive producer was Quincy Jones III. It was written by Peter Alton and Peter Spirer, and was narrated by actor Ving Rhames. This film takes a chronological look at battles dating back to rap music's infancy in the early 1980s. The notable rivalries discussed include KRS-One vs. MC Shan, Kool Moe Dee vs. Busy Bee, 50 Cent vs. Murder Inc., Tru Life vs. Mobb Deep, Common vs. Ice Cube & Westside Connection, the break-up of legendary group N.W.A, which includes Ice Cube's abrupt departure, and the later animosty between Dr. Dre and Eazy-E, the highly publicized Jay-Z vs. Nas rivalry and the most infamous feud of them all, 2Pac vs. The Notorious B.I.G.. It was partly born out of producer Jones's belief that "Beefs are killing hip-hop". Many prominent hip-hop personalities such as Russell Simmons, Snoop Dogg, Kool Moe Dee, Jay-Z, KRS-One, Mack 10, DMX, and Ice-T also participate in the film through interviews. Beef also features newly released performances by many musical artists.
  • Straight Outta L.A.
    8
    11 votes
    Straight Outta L.A., a 2010 documentary film in ESPN's 30 for 30 series directed by Ice Cube, covers the NFL team Raiders' time in Los Angeles, from 1982 to 1994, and how this overlapped with the local hip hop's transition from party jams to gangsta raps, a move led by the group N.W.A, which seized Raiders symbolism. The film premiered at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival and aired on ESPN on May 11, 2010.
  • Dave Chappelle's Block Party
    9
    18 votes
    Actor, writer and comic Dave Chappelle loads up a bus with residents of his Ohio hometown and takes them to Brooklyn, N.Y. Once there, the travelers enjoy a concert featuring Kanye West, the Fugees, Big Daddy Kane and others. Rehearsal footage and Chappelle's brand of comedy enliven the proceedings.
  • Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest, is a 2011 documentary film about the music group A Tribe Called Quest, directed by Michael Rapaport. The film was released on July 8, 2011, by Sony Pictures Classics.
  • Biggie & Tupac
    11
    15 votes
    Biggie & Tupac is a 2002 feature-length documentary film about murdered rappers Christopher "Notorious B.I.G." Wallace and Tupac "2Pac" Shakur by Nick Broomfield. Broomfield suggests the two murders were planned by Suge Knight, head of Death Row Records. Collusion by the LAPD is also implied. While the film remains inconclusive, when asked "Who killed Tupac?" in a BBC Radio interview dated March 7, 2005, Broomfield stated "The big guy next to him in the car... Suge Knight."
  • Tupac: Resurrection
    12
    10 votes
    Using interviews, photographs and home movies, this documentary presents the life of rapper Tupac Shakur. His mother, Afeni, is a Black Panther who spends part of her pregnancy in jail. Growing up in a politicized atmosphere, Shakur attends a performing arts high school in Baltimore, where he begins rapping. Success comes early, as do a series of legal problems, with arrests and accusations of violence against women leading up to his meteoric rise to fame and still-unsolved 1996 murder.
  • Wu: The Story of the Wu-Tang Clan
    13

    Wu: The Story of the Wu-Tang Clan

    Film
    10 votes
    Wu: The Story of the Wu-Tang Clan is a 2007 American rap documentary film directed by Gerald Barclay. In the summer of 1993, the Wu-Tang Clan emerged from the burroughs of New York City and took the hip-hop world by storm. Their legacy spanned over a decade, garnering fans worldwide and generating sales in excess of $50 million. This is their story.
  • Scratch
    14
    Film (2001)
    18 votes
    A feature length documentary film about the hip-hop DJ and today's "turntablist" movement. From the South Bronx in the `70s to San Francisco now, the world's best scratchers, diggers, party-rockers and producers on beats, breaks, battles, and the infinite possibilities of vinyl.
  • Style Wars
    15
    18 votes
    Style Wars is an American 1983 documentary film directed by Tony Silver. A documentary that exposes the rich growing subculture of hip-hop that was developing in New York City in the late '70s and early '80s, specifically focusing on graffiti art and breakdancing.
  • And You Don't Stop: 30 Years of Hip-Hop
    16

    And You Don't Stop: 30 Years of Hip-Hop

    Film
    11 votes
    And You Don't Stop: 30 Years of Hip-Hop is a 2004 film directed by Richard Lowe and Dana Heinz Perry and written by Bill Adler. The film documents the development of hip hop culture since its inception in the 1970s. It was nominated for an IDA award in 2005.
  • The Show
    17
    12 votes
    The Show is a 1995 documentary film about hip hop music. It was directed by Brian Robbins and featured interviews with some of hip hop's biggest names. Def Jam founder Russell Simmons stars in and narrates the film. The film grossed $1,482,892 in its opening weekend and $2,702,578 during its theatrical run.
  • Rhyme & Punishment
    18

    Rhyme & Punishment

    Film
    12 votes
    Rhyme and Punishment is a 2011 American documentary film directed by Peter Spirer. The gritty elements of urban crime and violence have always had an influence on hip hop culture and rap music. More and more, the trappings of street life have landed popular rap artists behind bars - and not just for a music video shoot.
  • Ice-T takes us on an intimate journey into the heart and soul of hip-hop with the legends of rap music. This goes beyond the stardom and the bling to explore what goes on inside the minds, and erupts from the lips, of the grandmasters of rap. Recognized as the godfather of Gangsta rap, Ice-T is granted unparalleled access to the personal lives of the masters of this art form that he credits for saving his life.
  • Stretch and Bobbito: Radio That Changed Lives
    20

    Stretch and Bobbito: Radio That Changed Lives

    Film
    14 votes
    Stretch and Bobbito: Radio That Changed Lives is a 2015 documentary film about the Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Show, starring Adrian "Stretch Armstrong" Bartos and Bobbito Garcia. The influential show helped to launch the careers of numerous hip hop artists, particularly those along the East Coast.
  • Crips & Bloods: Made in America
    21

    Crips & Bloods: Made in America

    Film
    7 votes
    Crips and Bloods: Made in America is a 2008 documentary by Stacy Peralta that examines the rise of the Crips and Bloods, prominent gangs in America. The documentary focuses on the external factors that caused African-American youth to turn to gangs and questions the political and law enforcement response to the rise of gang culture.
  • Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes is a 2006 documentary film written, produced, and directed by Byron Hurt. The documentary explores the issues of masculinity, violence, homophobia and sexism in hip hop music and culture, through interviews with artists, academics and fans. Hurt's activism in gender issues and his love of hip-hop caused him to feel what he described as a sense of hypocrisy, and began working on the film. The premiere of the film took place at the Sundance Film Festival, being welcomed by a standing ovation. It has also won Best Documentary at the San Francisco Black Film Festival and the Audience Award at the Roxbury Film Festival. On February 20, 2007 the film aired on the PBS Emmy-winning documentary series, Independent Lens.
  • Public Enemy: It Takes A Nation - The First London Invasion Tour 1987
    23

    Public Enemy: It Takes A Nation - The First London Invasion Tour 1987

    Film
    11 votes
    Public Enemy: It Takes A Nation - The First London Invasion Tour 1987 is a 2005 American music documentary film created by Public Enemy. Public Enemy stepped into this world with plenty to say. Featuring vintage interviews and footage, plus the live performance from the legendary concert at the Hammersmith Odeon, immortalized on the legendary album "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back"!
  • J Dilla: Still Shining
    24

    J Dilla: Still Shining

    Film
    13 votes
    Still Shining is a 2006 American documentary film directed by Brian "B. Kyle" Atkins. A tribute to the memory and legacy of James "J.Dilla" Yancey. This is a piece designed for his fans and supporters who knew of his accomplishments before February 2006 and those that have grown to appreciate his genius. Here, we gain a greater insight and understanding about our musical icon.
  • Beef II
    25
    Film (2004)
    13 votes
    Filmmaker Peter Spirer examines feuds between hip-hop artists and the responsibility of the music industry.
  • Reincarnated
    26

    Reincarnated

    Film
    14 votes
    Reincarnated is a 2012 documentary, music film directed by Andy Capper. Rapper Snoop Dogg immerses himself in the Rastafarian culture and changes his name to Snoop Lion as he makes his first reggae album.
  • Freestyle: The Art of Rhyme
    27

    Freestyle: The Art of Rhyme

    Film
    14 votes
    Freestyle: The Art of Rhyme is a 2000 documentary film directed by Kevin Fitzgerald about the art of freestyle, improvisational hip-hop. Taking more than seven years to make, the documentary includes performances and commentary by artists such as Supernatural, Mos Def, The Roots, Notorious B.I.G., Jurassic 5, and Pharoahe Monch.
  • Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton: This Is Stones Throw Records
    28

    Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton: This Is Stones Throw Records

    Film
    12 votes
    Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton: This Is Stones Throw Records is a 2013 American documentary film directed by Jeff Broadway. A feature-length documentary about avant-garde Los Angeles-based record label Stones Throw Records. The film weaves together rare concert footage, never-before-see archival material, inner-circle home video and photographs and in-depth interviews with the artists who put Stones Throw Records on the map.
  • Tupac: Assassination
    29
    Tupac Assassination: Conspiracy or Revenge is a documentary film about the unsolved murder of rapper Tupac Shakur produced by Frank Alexander, a Shakur bodyguard who was with the rapper at the time of the shooting, produced and directed by Richard Bond. The film was released October 23, 2007 on DVD.
  • The Art of Organized Noize is a 2016 American documentary film directed by Quincy Jones III. As pioneers of the Dirty South music movement, Organized Noize is responsible for Outkast, CeeLo, the Goodie Mob and the Dungeon Family. Their production shaped the landscape of hip-hop with their own distinctive sound, created in the confines of a dungeon.