Film Review: Microphone Check

Microphone Check Flyer

By Marc W. Polite

Hip-Hop as a music genre is 50 years old. The celebrations marking its foundation in 1973 were plentiful last year. Yet, something appeared to be missing from this commemoration. Many observers have noted how commercialized the music has become over the years. With that being the case, some want to take the opportunity to return to it’s essence.

Podcaster and documentarian Tariq Nasheed presented his latest film “Microphone Check” at SVA Theater last night. The goal of this documentary was to center the Black American experience and set the record straight as to who is responsible for the foundation of this genre.

First off, I should say that I misjudged this film from the trailer. Having seen it for myself, it shows a lot about the origins of the culture, and highlights aspects of it that I wasn’t aware of. The case is made very well, and Nasheed along with interviews from hip hop pioneers like Sha Rock and DJ Hollywood help set the record straight.

Second, this documentary gets into much of the music history of the early to mid 70s. I also like how the film points out the commonality of hip-hop with spoken word poetry. An aspect of Black arts that at times gets sidelined by ascribing outside influences to hip-hop.

In counterposition to much of the hip hop scholarship that has emerged within the last 30 years, “Microphone Check” re-centers hip hop as rooted in the Black American experience. Fair warning.. those who buy into the established narrative of who was involved in the foundation of the music might come out with their feelings a bit hurt. In spite of that, it is a necessary conversation about this genre. Unfortunately, there are so many forces out here that are adamant about erasing African American influences even from our own culture. This documentary is a response to that withering, ongoing attack.

Here’s a point that I’d like to make while we’re talking about hip-hop. As somewhat of an “old head”, personally I have felt somewhat alienated from hip-hop as it’s currently constructed. Having said that, this documentary was enjoyable to watch as a reminder of what it used to be. With the relatively recent spat between Kendrick Lamar and Drake, with the former clearly besting the latter, some wonder if the culture is beginning to shift towards more lyrical content.

This writer hopes that it is the case. The conversations that will emerge around Microphone Check could easily touch off a discussion about the cultural trajectory of hip hop, and it’s place in Black life in America. It is worth seeing, and it will challenge what you have been told about hip-hop.

I rate Microphone Check a 4 and a half out of five.


  1. Well said Marc, good morning! I was thinking of checking this out, now I will☺️

  2. Thank you for your review. Those of us who are older than 50 know the deal with the origins of Hip-Hop culture. There were no “other groups” in the beginning. In fact, I remember when Hispanics & Whites used to call it all “jungle music”. They used to make fun of the dress, dances & music. Now break dancing is an Olympic “sport”.

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