Forbidden America episode 2 – Rap’s New Frontline: Louis Theroux immerses himself in Florida’s multimillion-dollar rap scene – as notable for the controversy surrounding its emerging stars as its creativity.
Rappers have long mined their lives for inspiration to create and promote their music, but in the Sunshine State, some of the biggest artists stand accused of participating in the lawlessness their music describes. Raising the stakes is the 24-hour connectivity of social media, a world where the importance of record sales has been surpassed by streams and likes.
Louis spends time with a number of artists achieving success through self-promotion on social media – from those playing out fierce rivalries online to those live-streaming their often violent and chaotic lifestyles. Whilst drawing in an ever-growing fan base attracted to its unvarnished portrayal of real-life struggles and hardship, this content has also drawn the attention of the authorities, who see it as evidence of criminals engaging in ‘illegal gang activity’. Louis meets those at different stages of their quest to become the latest rap superstar, from those who have risen fast to those who have fallen hard.
Louis Theroux returns to the United States to explore the impact of the internet and social media on some of the most controversial corners of American society. Traveling throughout the country, Louis meets an assortment of content creators: young and inflammatory far-right streamers, rap stars who share their chaotic and violent lives with their online fans, and porn performers who earn a living via online subscription services using their power to call out the behaviors of alleged industry predators.
Forbidden America episode 2 – Rap’s New Frontline
Louis Sebastian Theroux is a British-American documentary filmmaker, journalist, broadcaster, and author. He has received two British Academy Television Awards and a Royal Television Society Television Award.
After graduating from Oxford University, Theroux moved to the US and worked as a journalist for Metro Silicon Valley and Spy. He moved into television as the presenter of offbeat segments on Michael Moore’s TV Nation series and later began to host his own documentaries, including Louis Theroux’s Weird Weekends, When Louis Met…, and several BBC Two specials.
Louis Sebastian Theroux was born in Singapore on 20 May 1970, the son of English mother Anne (née Castle) and American travel writer and novelist Paul Theroux. His paternal grandmother, Anne Dittami, was an Italian-American grammar school teacher, while his paternal grandfather, Albert Eugène Theroux, was a French-Canadian salesman for the American Leather Oak company. Theroux holds dual British and American citizenship. He is the nephew of novelist Alexander Theroux and writer Peter Theroux. His older brother, Marcel, is a writer and television presenter. His cousin, Justin, is an actor and screenwriter.
Rapping is a musical form of vocal delivery that incorporates “rhyme, rhythmic speech, and street vernacular”, which is performed or chanted in a variety of ways, usually over a backing beat or musical accompaniment. The components of rap include “content” (what is being said), “flow” (rhythm, rhyme), and “delivery” (cadence, tone). Rap differs from spoken-word poetry in that it is usually performed off time to musical accompaniment. Rap being a primary ingredient of hip hop music, it is commonly associated with that genre in particular; however, the origins of rap predate hip-hop culture by many years.
Precursors to modern rap include the West African griot tradition, certain vocal styles of blues, jazz, 1960s African-American poetry and Sprechgesang. The modern use of rap in popular music originated in the Bronx, New York City in the 1970s, alongside the hip hop genre and cultural movement. Rapping developed from the role of master of ceremonies (MC) at parties within the scene. They would encourage and entertain guests between DJ sets, which evolved into longer performances.
Rap is usually delivered over a beat, typically provided by a DJ, turntablist, beatboxer, or performed a cappella without accompaniment. Stylistically, rap occupies a gray area between speech, prose, poetry, and singing. The word, which predates the musical form, originally meant “to lightly strike”, and is now used to describe quick speech or repartee. The word had been used in British English since the 16th century. It was part of the African American dialect of English in the 1960s meaning “to converse”, and very soon after that in its present usage as a term denoting the musical style. Today, the term rap is so closely associated with hip-hop music that many writers use the terms interchangeably.