Black music inspires, informs and permeates each genre and every corner of the globe with an undeniable force. From complex rhythms and sweet melodies to lyrics versed in a unique experience, Black music has given all music a blueprint—including soul, jazz, blues, rock & roll and hip-hop. In celebration of these art forms, Xfinity’s Black Music Month film collection looks at several movements and beloved artists who embody this quality. As illustrated by the influencers below, these films capture the spirit and significance of Black music.
Mary J. Blige’s My Life
Known to many as “the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul,” Mary J. Blige pioneered a style and sensibility that reflects her life and upbringing. Whether joyful, triumphant or suffering, the New Yorker’s songs carry strong emotion and a close attachment to the things in her life. Mary J. Blige’s My Life shows how art reflects reality for a songstress with four #1 albums and chart-topping hit songs. With nine Grammy Awards along with Oscar and Golden Globe nominations, MJB is a multifaceted artist who has shifted culture. In penning anthems and collaborating with top peers, Mary J. Blige’s My Life casts a light on the hardships, hurdles and tragedies that the singer had to face to get to glory. “In the neighborhood we lived in, it’s like prison. There was a lot wrong, and there was a lot I needed to get out. That’s why I had that pen,” asserts the songwriter who wrote for herself and others like her—especially Black women. Within the film, which takes its name from Blige’s sophomore album, she explains why she feels the responsibility to stand up for others in similar circumstances, showcases her influential fashion choices and reveals why MJB has remained a commanding voice in music for more than 30 years.
Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels Of A Tribe Called Quest
Throughout the 1990s, A Tribe Called Quest cemented themselves among hip-hop's greatest groups. Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi White combined conscious messages about life with sampled extractions from jazz and funk. Tribe created a continuum of Black music on the highest level. Creating one of hip-hop's most respected catalogs (each album also achieving gold or platinum certification), the group took a break from making albums after 1998. Nearly 15 years later, when fans were craving Tribe, this Grammy-nominated documentary arrived on time. The 2011 feature is a one-part award tour, gathering praise from respected peers and disciples. The other part is an intimate glimpse at the challenges facing childhood friends-turned-Rap legends. Perhaps one of the best parts about Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest is that the film covers a period before the journey reached its destination. Although bittersweet because Phife passed earlier that year, hip-hop heads were delighted to see these four artists secretly reunite to surprise with 2016's chart-topping album.
Rhyme & Reason
In the late 1990s, Rhyme & Reason stood out as a definitive documentary that covered a complete cross-section of hip-hop. As the culture approached its quarter-century mark, the 1997 film blended voices ranging from New York hip-hop pioneers to those who launched movements across the country, in cities like Oakland, New Orleans and Atlanta. During a period when ap rwas often considered fractured according to region and style, Rhyme & Reason showed universal common ground as a predominantly Black art form. Elusive figures, late legends and underground stars appear in the same movie. The doc offers unique access and creative composition. The film shows a time, long before constant online access and coverage, when Black music made critical strides into the global mainstream.
Black musicians and songwriters continue to teach, inspire and break new frontiers in sound and art. Each song, album and artist adds to one of the most extraordinary contributions in the history of culture and entertainment. Check out the Black Music Month collection on the Black Experience on Xfinity.- Advertisement -
*Programming subject to change. Restrictions apply. Not available in all areas. Subscriptions are required to access select titles on streaming services.