When rap music was created, it gave Americans a view into the hood. The media refused to cover the poverty-stricken minority-filled neighborhoods, so rappers became our ghetto journalists. After hearing the tales of gang culture, drug dealers, pimps, the crack epidemic, and gun violence, Americans were shocked. Hip-hop music videos were banned from several stations, but the imagery was powerful and the message began to spread.

Soon the imagery that was confined to 3-minute videos took a tremendous leap from television screens to movie screens. The industry was unable to ban films in the same way that they did music videos, and millions of Americans flocked to their local theater to view depictions of Black America from the viewpoint of Black Americans. Directors like John Singleton and Mario Van Peebles were able to explore complex issues and themes that were too heavy for music videos, but perfect for full-length feature films. Movies like Boyz ‘n The Hood and Menace II Society highlighted the plight of minorities in the ghetto, while films like Friday and House Party were able to convey more lighthearted cultural subject matter. Rappers started using movie characters from these films to help illustrate their messages as well, and so began the relationship of Hollywood and Hip-Hop.

Rapper-actors are commonplace in the industry today, but pioneers like Tupac and Ice Cube opened the door to that possibility in the early 90's. Hip-hop influenced movies, and now movies also influence rappers. Characters like Bishop, Pookie, Nino Brown, B-Rabbit, Q, O-Dog, Sincere, and Smoky have been referenced by every prominent rapper imaginable. Punchlines, metaphors, and entendres have been formulated from gangster movie plot twists and defining hip-hop movie moments. Below is a list of the most influential hip-hop movies of the last thirty years, films that are essential to any hip-hop fan's movie catalog. If you haven't seen every movie on this list, you should question your hip-hop fandom. If you don't know, now you know.