Five Black Music Documentaries That Make Your Soul Dance

Lamonia Deanne Brown • February 29, 2024

Five Black Music Documentaries That Make Your Soul Dance
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Over a white background, large words say, "My Mic Sounds Nice: The Truth About Women and Hip Hip" with images of famous female musicians inside the words.

So often overlooked, this film pays homage to the women who perform in a genre that is so male dominated. They are all but erased. By keeping their stories alive, repeatedly saying their names, and reciting their lyrics, rap music is once again seeing the rise of the female voice, story, and triumph. Don’t watch it with me though, unless you want to hear me rapping along with them — loud and strong!

Watch the short documentary on Youtube or Vimeo.

Little Richard, a Black man with a thin moustache, a large coiffed hairstyle a white collared shirt, stands in front of a wood paneled wall.

I was always going to watch this film since I’ve known the director for a very long time and respect her work. This film is an honest portrayal of a brilliant artist who struggled with his identity, sexuality, and creative brilliance during a time in this country that none of us will ever have to grapple with in our career. As the credits rolled, I found myself grateful for his life, and more interested than ever in his work.

You can watch Little Richard: I Am Everything on Max, Amazon Prime, Apple TV and other streaming platforms.

Under red stage lights, Luther Vandross, a Black man with short hair and a suit, sings passionately into a microphone.
3) LUTHER: NEVER TOO MUCH | Dir. Dawn Porter

I absolutely LOVE Luther Vandross. His music still resonates with me, and I can always believe in love when I listen to his songs. In these times, we need as much love as possible. This is such a comprehensive story of Luther’s life and how his determination to be a superstar drove him to award-winning heights. He’s an icon, an American treasure, and I am so glad this film exists. It’s a must-see.

Luther: Never Too Much premiered at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival and is currently traveling the festival circuit.

Beyonce stands on bleachers, surrounded by dancers, in a yellow sweatshirt, small jean shorts and holographic fringe boots.

This is likely the best musical performance documentary of the early 2000s. I, like most others, was glued to my screen. Although I didn’t attend an HBCU, I’m not “Greek,” and not a sports fan — I was mesmerized and completely related to the film. From the marching band taking up a mountain of bleachers and the girls on the dance team, to the outfits that have become synonymous with Beyoncé, as well as the realness of falling while dancing with your sister—this film has everything we want to keep us smiling and moving!

Homecoming is available to watch on Netflix.

Clarence Avant, a bald Black man with a white beard and a suit, sits in a chair in front of a cozy wood-paneled living room.
5) THE BLACK GODFATHER | Dir. Reginald Hudson

If you worked in the music industry (on the Black side) chances are you’ve heard of, know someone who knows or — if you were lucky — met the legendary Clarence Avant. I’m one of the lucky ones and have always been awed by his appearance in any room, office, or arena. For those who didn’t work in the music industry, and those who didn’t work on the “Black side,” this is a cinematic masterpiece about a human masterpiece. Watch this film if you want to be inspired by, and to, professional greatness.

Watch The Black Godfather on Netflix.

Lamonia Deanne Brown

Lamonia Deanne Brown

Lamonia Deanne Brown (she/her) is a 2nd generation native of Williamsburg. Through her company, The Gilchrist Group, she is determined to bring as many stories from the Black global filmmaking community to life as possible, to create a paradigm shift in the ways Black life is portrayed. Lamonia is a proud BGDM member and the director of the ESSENCE Film Festival.

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