top of page

Fight the Power: How Hip Hop Changed the World | Preview (BBC Two)

In a new 4-part series Public Enemy’s frontman Chuck D leads a cast of Hip Hop icons from Ice-T to Run DMC to tell the definitive story of how hip hop emerged from the ashes of the Bronx in the 70s to become a global force for change today.

In this new series Chuck D from Public Enemy explores Hip Hop’s political awakening over the last 50 years. In episode 1 (The Foundation) Chuck is joined by a host of Hip Hop stars including Melle Mel, KRS-One, Fat Joe, John Forte and Grandmaster Caz.

Their combined voices track the deep roots of Hip Hop, from the tumultuous 60s, the despoliation of 70s New York, the influence of DJ Kool Herc to the explosive rap hit, The Message.

For the first time the reality of life in the Bronx is portrayed through stinging rap lyrics, launching the powerful voice of Hip Hop that Chuck has called “the Black CNN”.

Episode 2 (Under Siege) picks up in the mid 80s. As the crack epidemic hits, Fat Joe recalls how drugs are devastating the poorest communities.

The resulting police clampdowns prompt the emergence of socially conscious rap, with Public Enemy leading the way. Night of the Living Baseheads is Chuck D’s reaction to how crack is affecting his community but it is Michael Griffith, a young Black man chased to his death by a group of white youths that triggers Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing, and Public Enemy’s iconic theme Fight The Power.

On the West Coast, Hip Hop’s reaction to racial profiling is even fiercer as NWA and Ice-T respond to increasing police brutality with lyrical rage. The anger finally erupts into the streets of LA in May 1992.

Episode 3 (Culture Wars) starts in the ashes of LA. Hip Hop is reaching unprecedented heights, bringing the experiences of life for people of color to a wider, whiter America. But rappers are fast becoming victims of their own success.

Ice-T is an early target of the authorities that are enraged by his track Cop Killer. This is just an early salvo in the culture war that breaks out. In the 1992 Presidential race, Bill Clinton has been courting the Black community but suddenly turns on Hip Hop activist Sister Souljah, a member of Public Enemy’s collective. Rap has become a political football.

Out West Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg and Tupac are producing ground-breaking music that draws even more fire for its hardcore misogyny, provoking Queen Latifah to record her Grammy-winning track U.N.I.T.Y.

In the finale (Still Fighting), Chuck brings us into the 2000s. Hip Hop artists have become multi-millionaires with enormous followings. They cash in that leverage to raise funds for Hurricane Katrina victims, and help steer Barack Obama into power, marking his win with the celebratory My President is Black.

After Donald Trump wins the 45th Presidency, Fat Joe and Eminem recall how Hip Hop responds to Trump’s divisiveness and Eminem risks it all to write his searing condemnation “The Storm”.

Black Lives Matter emerges in the wake of a series of shocking killings, with rap the soundtrack; Kendrick Lamar’s Alright becomes the chant at demonstrations and Chuck re-vamps Fight the Power 2020 in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.

Begins Saturday 21st January on BBC Two and iPlayer.


bottom of page