Recent releases “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” and “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” perfectly demonstrate Hip-Hop’s enormous artistic impact as a cultural influencer and cinematic game-changer. Both movies are heavily punctuated by the culture, but neither is a straightforward Hip-Hop movie.
“Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” seems solely to exist in its 1994 setting to allow the filmmakers to overindulge in needle drops featuring the hottest rap songs of the era. The two lead characters (played by Dominique Fishback and Anthony Ramos) are positioned as direct descendants of the early days of the culture. A Black and a Hispanic with Puerto Rican flavor reside in Brooklyn with mannerisms and vernacular straight from Hip-Hop as they battle gigantic robots from a cartoon idolized by Hip-Hop culture. Even the movements of the Autobots and Maximals resemble many of the early moves of pop-lockers and breakdancers demonstrated back in the day.
“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” heavily borrows from Hip-Hop culture in many ways as well, but with a different aesthetic. The animation style of the film is heavily influenced by graffiti and street culture, while the soundtrack is loaded with rap bangers that help propel the story forward. The fashion of the characters also feels authentically street-inspired. “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” inspired more than a few new-generation Hip-Hop heads back when it was released in 2018. The groundbreaking film signaled the beginning of the next wave of Hip-Hop’s creative impact across fashion, pop culture, and filmmaking. Released during an era where content creation became the dominant aspiration for today’s youth culture, the film presented creative inspiration for the SoundCloud generation. This is the generation that has next, and they will likely spread the culture as content creators slowly infiltrating the industry professionally.
They follow in some big footsteps when it comes to blending Hip-Hop with directors like John Singleton, Spike Lee, F. Gary Gray, and Allen Hughes having matured as filmmakers as Hip-Hop ascended to pop-cultural dominance. They became elite storytellers during the ‘90s, incorporating the culture into every film they released. Does that make every film they produced a Hip-Hop movie? No, it doesn’t, but the culture dictates the vibe, and their films steeped with the culture dictate the trends.
Hip-Hop is a lifestyle. A lifestyle that young Black and Brown people lived every day. A lifestyle that they craved to see on screen when they went to the movies and watched television. Filmmakers like Lee and Singleton understood that.