Beyond Beats and Rhymes Premieres in Spectrum Program at 2006 Sundance Film Festival

Filmmaker Byron Hurt takes in-depth look at manhood, sexism and homophobia in rap music and hip-hop culture.

Film features interviews with top rappers and hip-hop moguls including Mos Def, Chuck D, Busta Rhymes and Russell Simmons

(San Francisco) BEYOND BEATS AND RHYMES: A Hip-Hop Head Weighs in on Manhood in Hip-Hop Culture, is a riveting documentary that examines representations of gender roles in hip-hop and rap music through the lens of filmmaker Byron Hurt, a former college quarterback turned activist. Conceived as a “loving critique” from a self-proclaimed “Hip-Hop Head,” Hurt tackles issues of masculinity, sexism, violence and homophobia in today's hip-hop culture. 

BEYOND BEATS AND RHYMES features revealing interviews with famous rappers including Mos Def, Fat Joe, Chuck D, Jadakiss and Busta Rhymes and hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons; along with commentary from Michael Eric Dyson, Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Kevin Powell and Sarah Jones and interviews with young women at Spelman College, a historically black school and one of the nation's leading liberal arts institutions. BEYOND BEATS AND RHYMES also reveals the complex intersection of culture, commerce and gender through on-the-street interviews with aspiring rappers and fans at hip-hop events throughout the country. 

“In the past 20 years, hip-hop has become a critically acclaimed billion dollar industry,” says BEYOND BEATS AND RHYMES filmmaker Byron Hurt. “How do black men feel about the representations of manhood in hip-hop? How do black women and men feel about the pervasive images of scantily clad and sexually objectified women in rap music and videos? What do today's rap lyrics tell us about the collective consciousness of black men and women from the hip-hop generation? What does homoeroticism in hip-hop media look like? These are the types of questions I set out to explore in this film and to provide thoughtful dialogue from intelligent, divergent voices of rap artists, industry executives, rap fans and social critics from inside and outside the hip-hop generation.” 

Hurt, 35, is a former Northeastern University football star and a long-time gender violence prevention educator. For more than five years, he was the associate director and founding member of the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) program, the leading rape and domestic violence prevention initiative for colleges throughout the country and for professional athletics. He is also the former associate director of the first gender violence prevention program in the United States Marine Corps. 

BEYOND BEATS AND RHYMES will have its broadcast début on PBS's Emmy Award-winning series Independent Lens next year. BEYOND BEATS AND RHYMES, produced and directed by Byron Hurt, is a co-production of God Bless the Child Productions, Inc. and the Independent Television Service (ITVS) in association with the National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC). Executive Producer is Stanley Nelson. Executive Producer for ITVS is Sally Jo Fifer. BEYOND BEATS AND RHYMES is co-produced and edited by Sabrina Schmidt Gordon. 

The National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC) is a non-profit national media arts organization committed to the presentation, funding, promotion, distribution and preservation of positive images of African Americans and the African Diaspora. Since 1990 NBPC has dispersed over six million dollars to independent filmmakers, whose works have provided several hundred hours of programming on the national PBS system. Its primary source of funding is the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. NBPC supports insightful outreach programs targeted for the national PBS schedule and in the spirit of healthy competition presents a bi-annual international film festival called Prized Pieces. 

Independent Television Service (ITVS) funds and presents award-winning documentaries and dramas on public television, innovative new media projects on the Web and the Emmy Award-winning weekly series Independent Lens Tuesdays at 10 PM on PBS. ITVS is a miracle of public policy created by media activists, citizens and politicians seeking to foster plurality and diversity in public television. Congress established ITVS in 1991 as part of a historic mandate to champion independently produced programs that take creative risks, spark public dialogue and nurture underserved audiences. Since ITVS's inception, its programs have revitalized the relationship between the public and public television, bringing television audiences face-to-face with the lives and concerns of their fellow Americans. More information about ITVS can be obtained by visiting ITVS is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a private corporation funded by the American people.

Posted on January 18, 2006