This past week VH1 premiered the documentary ‘Planet Rock: The Story of Hip Hop and the Crack Generation’.
“Narrated and executive produced by Ice-T, “Planet Rock: The Story of Hip Hop and the Crack Generation” is the first documentary to focus specifically on the connections between crack and hip-hop. Crack first appeared in the early 1980s, but by 1986, it was raging through the inner cities of America like wildfire, leaving pain, grief, and death in its wake. With candid, never-before-seen interviews from survivors, including Snoop Dogg, Cypress Hill’s B-Real, and the Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA and Raekwon, “Planet Rock” examines the hardships young men encountered growing up in impoverished neighborhoods, which led many to deal crack cocaine as their only way out.
From the gold dookie chain to Gucci, many hip-hop artists were influenced by the look and fashion of infamous dealers like Azie Faison in Harlem, who is prominently featured in the documentary, along with Freeway Ricky Ross, the Godfather of Crack in LA. As hip-hop became increasingly popular, the fascination with crime and gangster culture, specifically the violence inherent in crack culture, became ingrained in the music. And soon the very kids dealing crack were turning their street tales into hit records. After serving hard time in jail, Snoop Dogg became the biggest rapper of his day; after a bullet in the back nearly killed him, B Real went legit with Cypress Hill; and after crafting their business model on the crack hustle, RZA and Raekwon turned the Wu Tang Clan into a hip hop empire. As journalist Cheo Choker reflects, “it’s fascinating to think that Jay Z, a global icon who had better seats at President Obama’s inauguration than Jesse Jackson, was once a New York City crack dealer.”