10 Music documentaries to stream during social isolation

tribe called quest

Note: check your choice streaming service, availability varies by country.

Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest, 2011

As the title might suggest, this documentary is about A Tribe Called Quest, often referred to as the most influential and groundbreaking musical groups in hip-hop history. The film is directed by Michael Rapaport who followed the band through their reunion tour in 2008, almost 10 years after the band’s sudden break up. Some of the participating interviewees are Common, Ludacris, Beastie Boys, and Pharrell.

Where to watch: YouTube rental, Google Play rental

FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, 2019

For anyone who has yet to see it, this is the story behind Fire festival, luxury music festival that turned into a national disaster. Over an hour-and-a-half the audience gets to see the inner workings of this festival trainwreck and it is entertaining and sad to watch all at the same time.

Where to watch: Netflix

Madonna and the Breakfast Club, 2019

The early story of Madonna, before the fame during her struggling year trying to make it in the big apple with her band the Breakfast Club. In many ways this film is a celebration of Madonna’s ambition but also a showcase of the people who had made an impact on her becoming a musician.

Where to watch: Hulu, Amazon Prime, YouTube rental

New York 77 the Coolest Year in Hell, 2007

This was a big year for New York for a variety of reasons from an economic downturn, to a massive city blackout, and a series killer on the loose. It was also the year South Bronx embraced hip hop, Lower East side embraced thrashing guitar punk at CBGB, and disco was still in full swing. The film features interviews with music legends like Afrika Bambaataa, Chris Stein (Blondie), Grandmaster Caz, DJ Disco Wiz, and many more.

Where to watch: free on YouTube

ReMastered: Who Shot the Sheriff, A Bob Marley Story, 2018

The violent political suppression of the roots reggae movement in Jamaica told through an investigation into Jamaican politics and the CIA’s involvement in the mysterious shooting of Bob Marley.

Where to watch: Netflix

Searching for Sugar Man, 2012

An amazing story of an artist no one knew about called Rodriguez, who lived a humble, subtle life not knowing that he had a near cult following in South Africa. Rodriguez is eventually found well and alive by two fans who then proceed to untangle the story of his life and lack of attribution.

Where to watch: Netflix (US), YouTube rental, Google Play rental, Amazon rental

Scratch, 2001

This doc is all about turntablism, looking at the history from the South Bronx in the 1970 to San Francisco today (aka at the time filmed). A wealth of DJs and industry experts pitch into the story, reflecting on how they got into scratching and how it all begun. Among the many featured performers are Afrika Bambaataa, DJ Shadow, Cut Chemist, DJ Babu, Jazzy Jay, Grandmaster Flash, Madlib, and many, many more.

Where to watch: free on YouTube

Shut Up and Play the Hits, 2012

Documentary about the LCD Soundsystem’s last ever show at Madison Square Gardens. To quote IMDb, this film is “an intimate portrait of James Murphy as he navigates the lead-up to the show, the day after, and the personal and professional ramifications of his decision.”

Where to watch: Hulu, YouTube rental, Google Play rental

Rebel Music, MTV Series, 2013 –

A series of stories about Younge artists using music and art to ignite revolutionary actions around the world. Each episode focuses on an artists within a country, facing oppression, injustices, crime and other socio-political issues that fuel their creativity.  The stories featured are from indigenous people in Canada, Egypt, Mali, Israel/Palestine, Afghanistan, Mexico, and India.

Where to watch: Some full episodes are available free on YouTube

27 Gone Too Soon, 2017

Documentary that investigates the deaths of musical celebrities all of whom died at the age of 27. Throughout the film audiences get to see unseen footage and interviews with medical professionals, critics, and other insiders from the lives of Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and Kurt Cobain.

Where to watch: Netflix