Showtime kicks off multi-year ‘Hip Hop 50’ initiative

Multi-year, cross-platform programming initiative celebrates hip hop’s 50th anniversary

This December, Showtime will kick off Hip Hop 50, its multi-year, cross-platform programming initiative celebrating the 50th anniversary of the genre in collaboration with entertainment company Mass Appeal. The premium network will premiere three documentaries celebrating the storied history of the music genre Video Music Box (working title), Ricky Powell: The Individualist, and Rolling Like Thunder.

Video Music Box chronicles the longest-running music video show in the world, Video Music Box, launched and hosted in New York City by visionary DJ and MC Ralph McDaniels. Since its debut in 1983, Video Music Box has remained a hip hop mainstay, with McDaniels (or “Uncle Ralph,” as he’s known to legions of fans) serving as a leading hip hop influencer, tastemaker and documentarian, showcasing and debuting hip hop’s videos and introducing viewers to future stars like Nas, Jay Z, LL Cool J, Nicki Minaj and Fat Joe long before they were icons of the genre. With four decades of never-before-seen footage from McDaniel’s packed vault, the film spotlights the series’ global influence on hip hop, along with his professional and personal triumphs. The film is produced by Mass Appeal for Showtime and premieres Friday, December 3rd at 8 pm ET/PT.

Ricky Powell: The Individualist tells the against-all-odds-story of New York City photographer Ricky Powell, who rose to worldwide fame while capturing one of the wildest, most electric times in popular culture. From the Beastie Boys to Run DMC to Madonna to Warhol and Basquiat, Powell documented the music, fashion and art scenes of the 1980s and ’90s in downtown New York. Powell became known as “The Rickster” – a man who wasn’t just covering the scene, he was the scene. The documentary is directed by Josh Swade and produced by TIME Studios and SWADE Films and premieres Friday, December 10th at 8 pm ET/PT.

Rolling Like Thunder plunges into the secret underground world and history of freight train and graffiti culture, uncovering stories of myth-like artists, remarkable romances, competitive graffiti crews, and battles with the institution. As street art’s widespread integration bursts into the mainstream vibrancy via posters, books and high-end galleries, the film takes viewers back to the origin of the art, in one of its most extreme and risky forms. The film explores the train graffiti subculture from turn-of-the-century markings to modern-day masterpieces, forever linking the art form with America’s landscape. Rolling Like Thunder reveals the anonymous outlaws of freight writing who put life and limb on the line for an obsession to share their voice through their artwork. The film is directed by Roger Gastman and produced by Mass Appeal for Showtime and premieres Friday, December 17th at 8 pm ET/PT.

Hip Hop 50 will continue to run over the next three years and will encompass unscripted series and features, podcasts and digital shorts by and about some of the foremost names in the genre, culminating with the 50th anniversary of the genre in 2023. The initiative is driven by Nas and Mass Appeal Chief Creative Officer and Emmy-nominated partner Sacha Jenkins (Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men, Bitchin’: The Sound and Fury of Rick James).

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Buddy Iahn
Buddy Iahn founded The Music Universe when he decided to juxtapose his love of web design and music. As a lifelong drummer, he decided to take a hiatus from playing music to report it. The website began as a fun project in 2013 to one of the top independent news sites. Email:
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