“A Love Letter To Hip-Hop” Director Benny Boom On How Hood Creativity Fuels Hip-Hop


Hip-Hop and Benny Boom go hand-in-hand. His credentials are brolic as is his IMDb. A brief rundown includes directing videos for 50 Cent, Nicki Minaj, Akon and Keyshia Cole, collaborating with Channel Live and directing All Eyez on Me, along with several hit television shows like NCIS: Los Angeles and Empire. Now, what could a brother possibly do for an encore? Apparently a whole lot.

AllHipHop recently spoke with Benny Boom at a red carpet event celebrating the release of his new documentary, A Love Letter to Hip-Hop, which is co-directed and narrated by Black Thought of The Roots. The film explores the genre’s ascent from obscurity into a mainstream creative pillar and importance of the people who love it.

AllHipHop: Can you speak on how being from the hood leads to a type of diverse creativity that you have been able to parlay into a lasting career?

Benny Boom: When you grow up in an urban environment, a lot of times you’re deprived of things. At least when we were growing up, one thing you did have was a lot of love and a lot of community. It was still rough and tough, but there was this idea of community. Hip-Hop came along and gave us something to do. Whether you wanted to DJ or breakdance or do grafitti or rap, or any of those things. I did every single one of them at some point in time.

AllHipHop: At what point did you realize that this was a thing as a young person?

Seeing a music video with Duran Duran or something like that, and not really thinking we could reach that level, but seeing that this was talent. It’s not something that you just decide to do. I’m lucky enough to be of that age where I saw it from the beginning all the way through to the first rap record on the radio. We were just kids in the ghetto trying to make the best of what we had. It always turned out to where we steered the culture.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Benny Boom (@bennyboom)

AllHipHop: How did you decide on the style of the piece?

It’s interesting because we were approached separately about it by BET. But Black Thought hadn’t written anything, so they wanted me to do the visuals. I just called him and asked him. He said, “Yeah, I only have a few parts, so I’m going to send it to you piecemeal and you just listen to it.” I knew I wanted it to be black and white, I knew I wanted to strip it down. Because black and white lets you focus on the images. You’re not distracted by this and that. I wanted it to be transcendent. I wanted people to be able to understand it from 1973 to 2023. The idea was to display the elements in their rawest form.

AllHipHop: At this point, you are recognized as a director far more than a Hip-Hop creative. What portions of the culture do you believe are tapped into when you bring those energies to TV and film?

Probably the MC part of it. I used to rap, so I always approached music videos from that idea of if I were in the studio, what would I want to see? As if I were an MC trying to get on a song with an artist. Like, what are you bringing to that song? As a rap artist, I would ask “What are you bringing to that record to blow that record up even more?”

A Love Letter to Hip-Hop screened at Urbanworld Film Festival and is currently airing on BET Networks. Watch the trailer above.