Looking for the Perfect Beat

A BBC documentary does a good job of grounding rap music within hip hop’s earliest forms of expression.

Rap music makes up for its lack of melody with its sense of reminder. It’s linked some way into a past, into a legacy that has been overlooked, or just pushed to the side amongst all the glut of everything else. Remember that.

— Melle Mel

Rap is a conquest of media. It’s a media hijacking. I call it media piracy.

— Chuck D


After completing this assignment, students should be able to

  • Explain the reasons that the film opens with archival footage of Malcolm X
  • Summarize the reasons that “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five was a significant moment in hip hop.
  • Identify the primary interview subjects, including Grandmaster Flash, KRS-One, Afrika Bambaataa, Calvin Butts, Nelson George, and Ice Cube.
  • Explain Nelson George’s point that “A good rap record is like a good action movie. It’s pulp.”
  • Summarize Ice Cube’s discussion of the 1992 LA riots.



  • Perfect Beat