In the beginning of Hip-Hop’s foray into mainstream popularity, its artistic merit was not taken seriously. The sample heavy nature of the craft was disregarded as pure mimicry rather than repurposed genius. This disregard for hip-hop as an artform has been completely flipped on its head by a few pivotal voices within the culture.
Some of these voices, once defined by their hip-hop production abilities, have evolved into veteran film composers. Such a feat stands as a testament for how far hip-hop has come and how far it has the potential to go. These artists have proved that hip-hop’s ceiling for potential is seemingly limitless. Here are three hip-hop producers that have composed original scores for film and television.
It is no secret that Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA is one of the most legendary producers of all time. He is responsible for some of the greatest tracks to ever grace the New York City hip-hop scene. Songs from Wu-Tang’s discography such as “Protect Ya Neck”, “C.R.E.A.M.”, and “Triumph” are all certified classic. When RZA turned to composing films in the late 90s, it was a seamless transition. In the early 2000s, his work as a composer started to grab the attention of the masses. In 2003, RZA scored the beloved Quintin Tarantino film Kill Bill: Volume 1. This gained him all sorts of critical acclaim and respect from the film community. One of the most memorable aspects of that film is its legendary soundtrack. The fact that RZA was responsible for its curation is quite an incredible accomplishment. He paved the way for all of the hip-hop producers turned composers that came after him and he continues to churn out amazing scores to this day.
Los Angeles native Flying Lotus is a one of a kind producer. He has a distinct genre-bending sound that stands out amongst a contemporary crowd of trends and derivative sonic selections. His six solo projects are all heavily critically acclaimed and have solidified Flying Lotus as a musical trailblazer. In addition to his solo work, the Brainfeeder records founder has production credits on the classic Kendrick Lamar album To Pimp A Butterfly, the late Mac Miller project Swimming, and an array of albums with Brainfeeder signee Thundercat. While his work as a producer and solo artist have established him as hip-hop royalty, his work as a composer has been prolific in its own right. Recently, Flying Lotus composed the score for the anime Yasuke–a story about a Black samurai in 1500 era Japan. The series has been one of the hottest Netflix shows as of recent and it really shines a light on the musical genius of Flying Lotus. With 22 composer credits and counting, the man shows no sign of slowing down.
Swedish musician Ludwig Göransson has made quite the splash in both film and hip-hop. For the last decade Ludwig has served as visionary rapper Childish Gambino’s right hand man. He has production credits on all four of Gambino’s studio albums and is responsible for hit tracks like “Redbone” and “This Is America”. Though, when Ludwig isn’t producing hip-hop, he is scoring films. He has composed some of the most culturally impactful films of the 2010s including Fruitvale Station, Tenet, and Black Panther–the latter of which he won an Oscar for. The man is an absolute musical machine and shows no signs of slowing down. He recently has garnered attention for his work on Disney’s The Mandalorian, one of the most popular shows currently in circulation. Not many producers can navigate between hip-hop and film prestige as Ludwig has for the last decade. The Academy Award and Grammy Award winning musician is truly a legend in the making.