“You never thought hip-hop would come this far” – The Hollywood Reporter

Browse the 120+ Emmy categories and you’ll discover more than double-digit nominations Succession And Ted Lasso. You will also discover the undeniable influence of hip-hop.

The ever-expanding television medium is keeping the legacy of two of the most important figures in rap — and all of pop culture — alive, and now the projects are competing for Emmys. Dear mumthe FX documentary series about Tupac Shakur and his activist mother Afeni, received nominations for outstanding documentary or nonfiction series and writing for a nonfiction program, while a virtual reality concert that brought Notorious BIG back to life received nominations for outstanding emerging media program is nominated.

To top it off, Jay-Z, the ultimate rap entrepreneur, is nominated for two Emmys, including a historic one for Outstanding Directing in a Variety Series for Rihanna’s Super Bowl halftime show. And this is all happening in the year hip-hop celebrates its 50th anniversary. (The categories will be presented at the Creative Arts Emmys.)

His former manager and president of RCA Records, Mark Pitts, quotes Notorious BIG’s anthemic hit “Juicy.” The Hollywood Reporter“You never thought hip-hop would go this far.

“It’s high time for hip-hop to be recognized,” he continues. “It just gives me confidence in what we did. And it solidifies it. It highlights it.”

Says Dear mum Director Allen Hughes: “Whether it’s the Emmys, the Academy Awards or the Peabodys, recognize these hip-hop stories, applaud them and give them flowers in real time.” We don’t traditionally have hip-hop stories celebrated, so getting the nomination is great, but getting the win, baby!”

Shakur died on September 13, 1996, at age 25, six days after he was shot, and police announced in July that the investigation into his unsolved murder had been reopened. Notorious BIG was 24 years old when he was fatally shot on March 9, 1997; his case remains unsolved.

“They happened to be two of the greatest to ever do it,” says Hughes, whose credits include the 1993 classic Society of Threat IIHBO’s The defiant ones and several Shakur music videos. “Seeing them nominated for Emmys for their respective projects is great. And it shows you how far we have come. It’s a testament to how powerful the genre is and how unique Biggie and Tupac are.”

Hughes began work Dear mum in 2019 and the first of five episodes became FX’s most-watched unscripted series premiere. The director says the Emmy nominations are great “because hopefully more people will see it.”

“If you don’t get a nomination, it seems a little illegitimate in the history of things, which is an unfortunate thing,” he adds.

The Notorious BIG Sky’s the Limit: A VR concert experience premiered on Meta Horizon Worlds in December. It combined avatar and motion capture technologies with music and storytelling to showcase the veteran lyricist performing in Brooklyn alongside Bad Boy Records labelmates Puff Daddy, Lil’ Cease and The Lox, as well as newcomers such as Latto.

“Ultimately we came up with the idea that Biggie never died,” says Van Toffler, co-founder of Gunpowder & Sky, the studio that produced the VR concert. “He lives in this virtual world and was able to do and see things that he couldn’t because of his death.”

Rappers who have also built careers in television and film have won Emmys over the years, including Queen Latifah, Common and Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino. Last year’s hip-hop halftime show featured Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, 50 Cent, Mary J. Blige and Jay-Z received their first Emmys. And this year’s Emmys honors for Shakur and Notorious BIG are further proof of how hip-hop has shaped pop culture. Toffler remembers the launch of Yo! MTV raps “When hip-hop videos were just taking over the channel. I mean, that’s everything the audience wanted to see.

“It took a while for the culture to catch up, but hip-hop’s influence has permeated all aspects of entertainment and life,” he says.

Hughes hopes the next generation will pick up the hip-hop baton and get involved.

“It’s okay to stand up for something. It doesn’t just have to be party music,” he says. “Even though Tupac, Jay-Z and Biggie were incredible party music artists, they also did other things and pushed the medium forward. Let’s keep pushing the medium forward.”

This story first appeared in the September 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to login.

Brian Ashcraft

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