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Tupac, Biggie and Jay-Z’s Emmy Nods: “You Never Thought Hip-Hop Would Take It This Far”

The 2023 Emmy Awards are set to celebrate not only the finest achievements in television but also the enduring legacy of hip-hop. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the genre, and the Emmys have recognized its profound influence through nominations and categories that highlight iconic rap figures and their stories.

Among the notable hip-hop-related nominations, FX’s documentary series “Dear Mama,” which delves into the life of Tupac Shakur and his activist mother, Afeni Shakur, has been recognized in the categories of outstanding documentary or nonfiction series and writing for a nonfiction program.

Another groundbreaking project that’s made its mark is a virtual reality concert experience that brought the late Notorious B.I.G. back to life. Titled “Sky’s the Limit: A VR Concert Experience,” it’s nominated for outstanding emerging media program.

Rap’s ultimate entrepreneur, Jay-Z, also enters the Emmy race with two nominations, including a historic one for outstanding directing for a variety series for Rihanna’s Super Bowl halftime show.

Mark Pitts, former manager of Notorious B.I.G. and the president of RCA Records, quoted the iconic rapper’s anthem “Juicy,” saying, “You never thought that hip-hop would take it this far.” He expressed his satisfaction at seeing hip-hop finally recognized, adding, “It just makes me feel confident about what we’ve been doing. And it solidifies it. It underlines it.”

The director of “Dear Mama,” Allen Hughes, echoed these sentiments, emphasizing the importance of celebrating hip-hop stories at prestigious awards shows. He said, “Whether it’s the Emmys or Academy Awards or Peabodys, recognize these hip-hop stories, applaud them, give them the flowers in real-time. We haven’t traditionally celebrated hip-hop stories, so it’s great to get the nomination, but get the win, baby!”

Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G., who both tragically lost their lives in the 1990s, have left an indelible mark on the genre and pop culture as a whole. Their Emmy nominations for respective projects highlight their enduring influence.

Allen Hughes began working on “Dear Mama” in 2019, and the series quickly gained attention, becoming FX’s most-watched unscripted series premiere with the first of its five episodes. The Emmy nominations are seen as an opportunity for more viewers to discover and appreciate these important stories.

The virtual reality concert experience that brings Notorious B.I.G. back to life, with avatar and motion capture technologies, allows audiences to witness the legendary artist performing alongside fellow artists from Bad Boy Records. Van Toffler, co-founder of Gunpowder & Sky, the studio behind the project, shared the concept: “Ultimately, we came up with this idea that Biggie never died. He lives in this virtual world and he got to do and see things that he couldn’t have because he died.”

Hip-hop has not only influenced music but also made significant contributions to the television and film industries. Artists such as Queen Latifah, Common, and Donald Glover (Childish Gambino) have received Emmys for their work in TV and film. Last year’s hip-hop halftime show at the Super Bowl, featuring Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, 50 Cent, Mary J. Blige, and Jay-Z, earned these artists their first-ever Emmys. The recognition of Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. in this year’s Emmy nominations further underscores how hip-hop has shaped and continues to influence pop culture.

Toffler reminisced about the late ’80s when “Yo! MTV Raps” took over the channel, and hip-hop videos became the audience’s preferred content. He emphasized how hip-hop has not only permeated entertainment but also all aspects of life, leaving an indelible mark on culture.

Allen Hughes hopes that the next generation will carry the hip-hop legacy forward, emphasizing that hip-hop artists are not limited to creating party music but have also pushed the boundaries of the medium. He encouraged continued innovation and progress within the genre.

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