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Public Enemy’s Chuck D narrates new hip-hop history documentary podcast: Listen

It marks the 50th anniversary of hip-hop with “immersive reenactments, oral history and expert discussion”

Close-up black-and-white image of rapper Chuck D

A new audio docu-drama series about the rise of hip-hop that's narrated by Chuck D is available to listen to now.

Can You Dig It? A Hip-Hop Origin Story comprises five, 30-minute episodes that retrace the genre’s rise through a blend of “immersive reenactments, oral history and expert discussion”. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the genre and its culture.

Chuck D, the US rapper and Public Enemy frontman, details the story of hip-hop’s birth in the Bronx, New York during the late '60s and early '70s on the podcast series. 

Summary notes read: “It wasn’t a given that the Bronx of the late 1960s and early 1970s would be the birthplace of an American art form. Urban renewal had left the borough neglected and in crisis. Gangs policed the streets, and winding up in the wrong territory could have serious consequences. But things were about to change.”

The series is described as an “in-depth history of how positive community influences helped inspire the troubled youth to end the cycle of gang violence”, as told by people who were there.

“It’s the inspiring true story of how local gang the Ghetto Brothers rejected calls for war in the aftermath of the murder of Black Benjie – a member who was trying to find common ground – and how gang leaders Yellow Benjy and Karate Charlie worked to broker a peace with rivals. The end result? A place where urban artistry could flourish into a global culture 50 years strong: hip-hop,” the description adds.

Speaking about his involvement in the project, Chuck D told Billboard: “But when I started unpeeling it, I was like, “Wow, this is the story behind the story.” It was the germination of the seed, the beginnings of hip-hop.

“We always could talk loosely about “hip-hop started when the gangs stopped, then all of a sudden they used hip-hop.” But those are broad strokes and laced with mythology. This [series] got to the detail of what was what. You could almost smell the fresh paint of the Cross Bronx Expressway over the rubble.”

The series is available to listen to on Audible now.

Meanwhile, a film series celebrating 50 years of hip-hop has been launched by The Criterion Channel and a new documentary that explores the history of hip-hop mixtape culture is out now.