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TYLER PERRY AND THE HISTORY OF HIP HOP? YEAH, THAT JUST HAPPENED

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When many of us think of Hip Hop, the first thing that comes to mind isn’t usually Tyler Perry. After all, Perry has made a distinct and powerful name for himself in the movie and entertainment industry for making movies that, at times, seem to be the antithesis to Hip Hop culture. From his famous “Madea” series to his latest project, Temptation, Perry’s films undoubtedly chronicle the black experience, at least in their own way. But rarely do we get exposed a Perry outing that celebrates or even touches on Hip Hop.

It looks like that’s about to change, and soon. On the heels of his success with his latest Hollywood blockbuster in Temptation, Perry has announced that he is teaming up with The History Channel to create several mini-series’ that chronicle the African American experience. It is reported that executives at The History Channel were thoroughly impressed with how Perry breathed new life into the 1975 stage play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide: When the Rainbow is Enuf with 2010’s For Colored Girls.

And now it has been confirmed by several sources that the first collaboration between Perry and The History Channel will be an epic mini-series on the birth of Hip Hop. Many of you out there are probably scratching your head vigorously and letting out a collective and congestive, “HUH???” And trust me: I did too the first time I read the story. Tyler Perry…doing a mini-series…on Hip Hop? That’s one hell of a curve ball if I’ve ever heard one.

But ponder this for a moment, if you will: in 2000, filmmaker Ken Burns put together a sweeping and exhaustive mini-series/documentary chronicling the history of jazz music, simply titled Jazz. For both Burns and for PBS, the mini-series was an amazing success. It was played on the station several times and is still available for sale today the shopPBS.com website. This was mainly because Burns created a mini-series/documentary that appealed to the generation that grew up with jazz music and remembered many of the stories, legends and artists that were highlighted. The film also appealed to music fanatics and cultural historians, and held a certain air of historical significance and import.

I suspect that Perry would be served well by following a similar pattern. True, Tyler Perry is no Ken Burns, and vice versa. He’s managed to carve out his own niche when it comes to making films. But we are talking about what is arguably the most important musical and cultural movement of the 20th century, and it deserves to be treated as such.

Tyler Perry is a talented, formidable and successful filmmaker in his own right, and I’m sure that he already has an artistic vision in place to give us the history of the humble beginnings of Hip Hop. And this project has the potential to be his Jazz…if done the right way. As always in these situations, we’ll just have to take the wait and see approach. Personally, as a music fanatic and aspiring historian, I’m keeping an open mind to see what the TV gods will bring from this one.

Ron Grant is a freelance journalist and blogger originally from Detroit and currently residing in Orlando. He is a contributor at HipHopDX.com, is the lead writer for Orlando-based indie music label Conscious Mind Records and runs his own independent music blog, The Music Nerdvocate. Follow him on Twitter @RonGreezy.