The FilmOverviewWho's WhoFilmaker StatementFilmaker BioQ&A
Meet the people featured in HIP-HOP: Beyond Beats and Rhymes
50 Cent

Carmen Ashhurt-Watson

Dr. Jelani Cobb

Chuck D

Dr. Michael Eric Dyson

Fat Joe

Dr. Beverly Guy-Sheftall

Stephen Hill

Jadakiss

Sarah Jones

Jackson Katz

Talib Kweli

Mos Def

Nelly

Dr. James Peterson

Kevin Powell

Russell Simmons

Conrad Tillard

Tim'm West

Emil Wilbekin








50 Cent
One of the most successful hardcore rappers today, 50 Cent was born Curtis Jackson in Queens, New York. Following an unsuccessful late-1990s attempt at mainstream success—thwarted by an attempt on his life in 2000—and a more successful run on the New York mixtape circuit, 50 signed a seven-figure contract with Eminem’s record label in 2002. His fast rise towards crossover success started in 2003 with his debut album, Get Rich or Die Tryin’, which was accompanied by a video game and a semi-autobiographical film.

50 Cent wearing a white cap and a white shirt

divider
Carmen Ashhurt-Watson
Carmen Ashhurt-Watson is the former president of Def Jam Recordings, the pioneering hip-hop recording label.
Carmen Ashurst-Watson wearing glasses and a patterned blazer
divider
Dr. Jelani Cobb
William Jelani Cobb, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of history at Spelman College. He is also a critic, essayist and fiction writer whose writings on politics, the African Diaspora and contemporary African American culture have appeared in a number of national outlets. His column "Past Imperfect" appears regularly on AOL BlackVoices. He is the editor of The Essential Harold Cruse: A Reader and has published three books, including To The Break Of Dawn: A Freestyle on the Hip Hop Aesthetic.

Jelani Cobb wearing a red T-shirt
divider
Chuck D
As the founder of Public Enemy, Chuck D is one hip-hop’s most iconic figures. Born Carlton Douglas Ridenhour in 1960, Chuck D studied graphic design at Long Island’s Adelphi University, where he met and formed the group that would become Public Enemy. The group’s debut album, Yo! Bum Rush the Show, was released in 1987. Their second album, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, and third release, Fear of a Black Planet, cemented the group as one of hip-hop’s most important voices. After Public Enemy went on hiatus in 1995, Chuck D has released a solo album, published an autobiography and has lectured on issues including advocating MP3 technology.

Chuck D wearing a black shirt and doorag
divider
Dr. Michael Eric Dyson
Dr. Dyson is the author of Is Bill Cosby Right?, The Michael Eric Dyson Reader, Open Mike; Holler If You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac Shakur; Why I Love Black Women; I May Not Get There With You: The True Martin Luther King, Jr.; Race Rules: Navigating the Color Line; Between God and Gangsta Rap; Making Malcolm: The Myth and Meaning of Malcolm X; and Reflecting Black. He lives in Philadelphia and is the Avalon Foundation professor in the humanities at the University of Pennsylvania.

Michael Eric Dyson wearing glasses and a dark jacket
divider
Fat Joe
Born Joe Cartagena in the South Bronx, Latino rapper Fat Joe released his full-length debut recording, Represent, in 1993. The album’s single “Flow Joe” peaked at number one on Billboard’s Hot Rap Singles chart. By the late 1990s, Fat Joe had signed with Atlantic Records and opened a clothing store, Fat Joe’s Halftime, a barbershop and a fashion line, FJ560. His most recent album is Me, Myself and I, released on the rapper’s own Terror Squad imprint.

Fat Joe wearing a backwards red baseball cap
divider
Dr. Beverly Guy-Sheftall
Dr. Guy-Sheftall is the founding director of the Women’s Research and Resource Center and the Anna Julia Cooper professor of women’s studies at Spelman College. She is also adjunct professor at Emory University’s Institute for Women’s Studies. She has published a number of seminal texts within African American and women’s studies, including Sturdy Black Bridges: Visions of Black Women in Literature, which she co-edited with Roseann P. Bell and Bettye Parker Smith. Her most recent publication is a book co-authored with Johnnetta Betsch Cole, Gender Talk: The Struggle for Women’s Equality in African American Communities. She is founding co-editor of Sage: A Scholarly Journal of Black Women.

Beverly Guy-Sheftall wearing glasses with red frames
divider
Stephen Hill
Number one on The Source 2004 list of most influential executives in the music industry, Stephen Hill is executive vice president of Entertainment and Music programming for Black Entertainment Television (BET). Prior to joining BET in 1999, Hill served four years at MTV in New York City as director of music programming and worked as a corporate lending officer for Bank of Boston. He is a graduate of Brown University.

Stephen Hill with facial hair and an earring
divider
Jadakiss
Born Jason Phillips, the rapper Jadakiss joined the Ruff Ryders in 1999 and the LOX in 2004. He released his solo album Kiss tha Game Goodbye in 2001. His second solo album, Kiss of Death, was released in 2004.

Jadakiss talks to the camera
divider
Sarah Jones
Tony Award-winning playwright, actor and poet Sarah Jones has received grants and commissions from Lincoln Center Theater, The Ford Foundation, and theater honors including an Obie, a Helen Hayes Award, two Drama Desk nominations, HBO's U.S. Comedy Arts Festival's Best One Person Show Award and an NYCLU Calloway Award in recognition of Jones as the first artist in history to sue the Federal Communications Commission for censorship. Her multi-character solo shows include Bridge & Tunnel, which was originally produced Off-Broadway by Oscar winner Meryl Streep and went on to become a critically acclaimed, long-running smash-hit on Broadway.

Sarah Jones wearing a red sleeveless shirt
divider
Jackson Katz
Jackson Katz is internationally recognized for his groundbreaking work in gender violence prevention education with men and boys, particularly in sports culture and the military. An educator, author and filmmaker, Katz is co-founder of the Mentors in Violence Prevention program at Northeastern University's Center for the Study of Sport in Society. He is the author of The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help and is a doctoral student in cultural studies and education at UCLA.

Jackson Katz speaks to the camera
divider
Talib Kweli
Born in Brooklyn as the eldest of two sons of college professors, Kweli made his first recording for Rawkus Records as one-half of hip-hop duo Reflection Eternal, with DJ Hi-Tek. With Mos Def and Hi-Tek, Kweli’s raps as part of the group Black Star ushered in an alternative hip-hop revival in the late 1990s. In 2000, Kweli and Hi-Tek released their second album on Rawkus Records. His first solo record, Quality, was released in 2002 and produced by the then-unknown Kanye West, containing the hit “Get By.” More recent albums include The Beautiful Struggle and Right About Now.

Talib Kweli wearing a red As baseball cap
divider
Mos Def
Born in Brooklyn in 1973, Mos Def formed his first music group, Urban Thermo Dynamics, with his younger sister in the early 1990s. He then joined Afrika Bambaataa’s Native Tongues Collective and signed with Rawkus Records, who released his underground rap classic Universal Magnetic. Mos Def teamed up with Talib Kweli and DJ Hi-Tek to form Black Star, producing the 1998 album Mos Def and Talib Kweli Are… Black Star. In 1999, he released his first solo album, Black on Both Sides. His second solo album, The New Danger, was released in 2004. Mos Def is also an acclaimed professional actor, appearing in movies such as The Italian Job and The Woodsman and on Broadway in Topdog/Underdog.

Mos Def wearing a brown hat
divider
Nelly
St. Louis-born Nelly was one of the first Southern-Midwestern rappers to gain national success, due to his crossover appeal. His 2000 debut album Country Grammar, featured the hit single “Country Grammar (Hot…)” and his sophomore release Nellyville contained the chart-topper “Hot in Here.” More recent projects include his 2005 album Sweatsuit.

Nelly wearing a fedora with a black band
divider
Dr. James Peterson
Dr. Peterson is an assistant professor of English at Penn State Abington and teaches a course at Drexel University called Hip-Hop and Politics. He is associated with Hip Hop Scholars, Inc., an educational consulting group.


James Peterson speaks to the camera
divider
Kevin Powell
Kevin Powell is an activist, poet, journalist, essayist, editor, cultural curator, hip-hop historian, songwriter, music producer, public speaker, political consultant, and fundraiser and businessman. He has published six books, including Who’s Gonna Take The Weight? Manhood, Race, and Power in America, an Essence bestseller. He was a founding staff member of Vibe where he also served as a senior writer. Powell has hosted and produced programming for HBO and BET and is the founder, CEO and president of True York Entertainment.

Kevin Powell
divider
Russell Simmons
Entrepreneur Russell Simmons’s marketing skills have helped bring hip-hop into mainstream American culture and make rap music big business. Simmons grew up in Queens, New York and formed his own artist management company, Rush Productions, in the late 1970s, taking on his younger brother’s group, Run-D.M.C., as clients. In 1984, he co-founded the Def Jam label with Rick Rubin. By the time he sold it in 1999, it was worth 100 million dollars. Simmons’s other ventures include creating the HBO series Russell Simmons’s Def Comedy Jam, producing the hip-hop documentary The Show, launching the clothing line Phat Farm and establishing the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network.

Russell Simmons wearing a pink shirt and cap
divider
Conrad Tillard
Known as the “hip-hop minister,” the Reverend Conrad Tillard has worked extensively for social justice for urban youth. Formerly known as Minister Conrad Muhammad, an outspoken national youth minister for the Nation of Islam, Tillard currently serves as pastor for Nazarene Congregational Church in the Bedford Suyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York. His autobiography, The Prodigal Son Imperative: In My Father's House, about a spiritual journey a of a hip-hop generation minister, will be out in February 2008.

Conrad Tillard wearing a dark suit
divider
Tim'm West
Queer rapper Tim’m West grew up in Taylor, Arkansas and holds a B.A. from Duke University and M.A.s from Stanford University and the New School for Social Research. As a teacher, performance artist, author and culture producer he has taught writing at the New School, Stanford and the Cesar Chavez Public Charter High School for Public Policy, published three books, released three albums with Deep Dickollective (ddc) and been anthologized widely. He currently works as a high school coordinator for College Summit, Inc.

Tim’m West with an eyebrow ring and the side of his face to the camera
divider
Emil Wilbekin
Former editor-in-chief of Vibe magazine and current vice president of brand development for designer label Marc Ecko, Emil Wilbekin was named one of Out’s 100 Most Influential Gay People in 2002. Born in 1968 in Cincinnati, Ohio, he is a graduate of Hampton University and Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism in New York City.
Emil Wilbekin looks at the camera
divider
Read a filmmaker statement from Byron Hurt »
Learn about the issues debated in HIP-HOP: Beyond Beats and Rhymes »

 

 

Learn More Get Involved Talkback