Scratch the record and forget about rock docs: hip hop documentaries are where it's at. Calum Henderson has found one of the best.

Just as hip-hop long ago replaced rock as the prevailing force in popular music, hip-hop documentaries are starting to replace the classic rock doc as the leading form of music documentary.

One of the year's most well-made examples came out on Netflix last week. The second series of Hip-Hop Evolution offers another four episodes packed with personality, emotion and the kinds of stories no rock doc could ever dream of matching.

The Sex Pistols swore on live TV? What about how 2 Live Crew swore so much on their records they got banned from an entire Florida county by the sheriff.


If the show's first series, released in 2016, was a lesson in Hip-Hop 101 – the culture's genesis in 1970s New York and its evolution on the east and west coasts throughout the 1980s – then this series is the 200-level course.

While it's definitely an education for all but the most wisened hip-hop heads, watching it never feels like homework.

The four new episodes focus more on the points where hip-hop began to intersect with popular culture, as well as exploring its emergence in centres outside of New York and Los Angeles. The first one covers southern hip-hop, starting in Florida with the incredible story of Miami bass pioneer Uncle Luke and the 2 Live Crew.

The group's best-known single, Me So Horny, was so stupid and profane that it crossed over and became wildly popular with white high school students. That's when the trouble started. Outstanding archival news footage shows concerned parents and family values campaigners up in arms, while the ultimate early-90s teenage rebel defends the group while wearing a Bart Simpson T-shirt.

The Broward County sheriff – "he was a hater for reasons he didn't even understand," remembers Trick Daddy – had them banned for obscenity. They played there anyway and were arrested as soon as they stepped off stage. The resulting federal trial turned into a landmark free speech battle, Uncle Luke effectively fighting on behalf of all rappers for the right to use explicit language.

Tracking down footage from that show and of the Ghetto Style DJs days is one thing, but where the series really excels is in tracking down so many of the original pioneers and getting them to tell their stories. Canadian hip-hop artist Shad, who presents the series, frequently strikes a rare mix of humour and heart in his interviews.

There's real emotion, too – seeing Bun B and DJ DMD of UGK talk about the late Pimp C hits hard, for example, as does the second episode, where friends and fans reflect on the genius of Tupac Shakur and his legacy in the Bay Area.

Hip-Hop Evolution makes no real claim to being a definitive, encyclopedic history of the culture – each episode feels more like a wise older cousin showing up at your house with a stack of CDs, saying here, have you heard this? Start with UGK, Too Short, Digital Underground, it suggests, and see where it takes you.


• Season two of Hip Hop Evolution is available to stream on Netflix.