EXCLUSIVE: Sacha Jenkins Talks Hollywood Embracing Hip Hop, Iggy Azalea’s Cultural Appropriation & Eminem’s Acceptance As A Rapper


Mass Appeal creative director Sacha Jenkins is one of the most accomplished Hip Hop journalists in history. His resumé includes articles for Vibe, Rolling Stone, and Spin magazines. In addition, he helped start ego trip and co-wrote two books (ego trip’s Book of Rap Lists, ego trip’s Big Book of Racism) with fellow publishers Elliott Wilson and Jeff Mao.

Besides contributing to those references, Jenkins was also a co-creator of Ego Trip’s The (White) Rapper Show. The VH1 reality competition series pitted Caucasian rappers against each other in the hopes of winning a $100,000 prize.

One year after The (White) Rapper Show aired, Eminem – the most successful White emcee of all time – released his autobiography The Way I Am. Jenkins happens to be the writer that assisted Em with the reflective 2008 memoir.

Sacha Jenkins’ most recent project is the documentary Fresh Dressed. The film was created in conjunction with CNN Films, and Hip Hop legend Nas is listed as one of the movie’s producers.

AllHipHop.com recently spoke with Jenkins about directing Fresh Dressed. But with an extensive pedigree in Hip Hop, the Queens native was asked about other topics related to his current and previous work. Check out some of the outtakes from AHH’s exclusive interview with Sacha Jenkins.

[ALSO READ: EXCLUSIVE: Director Sacha Jenkins Talks ‘Fresh Dressed’ Documentary, Working With Co-Producer Nas & Hip Hop Fashion]


Is The Success Of 'Empire' & 'SOC' Opening New Doors In Hollywood?
Is The Success Of ‘Empire’ & ‘SOC’ Opening New Doors In Hollywood?

On Hollywood embracing Hip Hop themed films and TV shows after the success of Empire and Straight Outta Compton:

The success of Empire and Straight Outta Compton means Hollywood’s appetite to make money will connect with stories that are relevant to the world of Hip Hop. Stories that they didn’t necessarily look at being extremely successful and compelling.

I’m sure there are a billion Hollywood executives looking for the next Straight Outta Compton. I think that can be a positive thing. When you have folks of color getting opportunities in that environment, they don’t always come easily. So it’s great that there’s more of an appetite for those kind of projects. Hopefully, that will make way for more diversity in the kinds of stories we can tell about ourselves.

On Iggy Azalea and the cultural appropriation of Hip Hop:

When you claim Hip Hop, it’s a powerful thing to claim. It’s like claiming Muhammad or claiming Jesus. It’s a culture, it’s a mindset, it’s a history that you’re claiming.

If Iggy Azalea just would have came out and said “I’m a Pop star” who makes sh*tty raps calling herself a “runaway slave master,” maybe nobody would care. But the fact that she was co-signed by some thirsty ass negroes who thought it was okay to tell some White chick it was okay to call yourself a “runaway slave master,” that’s when it becomes problematic.

If T.I. would have said “this is my Pop artist, and she’s doing Pop-Disco songs” it wouldn’t have been a big deal. But because there is this history of cultural appropriation, people are going to feel a way about it.

On co-creating The (White) Rapper Show:

With The (White) Rapper Show, we were making social commentary. We cast a really broad range of White rappers coming from lots of different perspectives. Ultimately, we saw that show as a conversation. It was America eavesdropping on White rappers having a conversation amongst themselves.

On Eminem’s reaction to The (White) Rapper Show:

I did Eminem’s biography. I was in his basement in Detroit interviewing him, and out of nowhere he says, “You know what I hate?” I said, “What?” He said, “I hate The (White) Rapper Show.”

I let him go on and on. Then I said, “Did you know I created that show?” He said, “No.” I asked him, “Don’t you get it? In the wake of your success, it doesn’t’ matter anymore to a certain extent. You got respect, because you weren’t trying to be something that you weren’t.”

Unless you’re Big L, rappers aren’t rapping about killing their baby mammas. I told him, “That’s not how it works. You changed the game by showing people that White people are f*cked up too, White people take drugs, and White people have dysfunctional families. And you did it from a perspective of being true to who you are. And because you did that, you changed the way people see ‘White rappers.’”

Em's Biography Was Co-Written By Jenkins
Em’s Autobiography Was Co-Written By Jenkins

On the White media’s reaction to Eminem and him being accepted by Black fans:

I think White media always goes after people that have “shock value.” But Eminem was accepted by Black people because he wasn’t doing what people would typically deem as “wiggerish.” He was a poor White dude.

When I was coming up in the 70’s and 80’s, based on television, I had no idea that White people were poor. I didn’t have money. I knew plenty of Black people who didn’t have money. I had Good Times as a reference, but outside of The Waltons, I didn’t know White people were poor.

So Eminem actually educated a lot of people on things that they either weren’t willing to accept or didn’t know was real. I think that’s what separated him from a lot of other people.

On the current state of Hip Hop music:

I’m not saying I listen to [Eminem] everyday. But the guy is a brilliant writer. Especially at a time when writing is at an all time low in Hip Hop. Of course, you have Kendrick and other people.

I know I sound like an old ass man, but I can’t really enjoy music as an adult when young Black people are still talking about killing each other over bullsh*t. Or rhyming about “b*tches” or “p*ssy” when there are so many more important things happening.

All that stuff is an obvious distraction. People don’t understand that now. When you have Bobby Shmurda dancing for a bunch of f*cking executives like a slave, it’s disgusting to me. There are too many people that are embedded in the music industry who are just thirsty for money and are interested in maintaining the status quo. 

I have a very strong opinion, but I’m a journalist first. I’m a musician. I’m a lot of different things. I’m a journalist. I’m a husband. I’m a father. I’m someone who grew up in the community. I’m someone who has seen the power of Hip Hop and how it has transformed people’s lives.

I’m one of those people. Nas is one of those people. But I’ve also seen how some of the things reflected in the music continue to hurt a lot of people. And I wish we had more people addressing this.


On the current state of Hip Hop culture:

The drum in Africa was not just for music. It was for communication, language, and expression. For the music that we’ve created, the drum is the backbone of it. The root of it is the drum, and that’s what we need to use to tell our stories. We can’t lose sight of that.

It’s not just about the money. It’s not just about getting a record deal. It’s not just about having an expensive bag. It’s not just about trying to be like Rick Ross.

It’s not about that. It’s about the survival of our culture and our expression. It’s about people wanting to take that from us. It’s about appropriation. It’s about exploitation. It’s about us taking some accountability and responsibility.

It’s okay to make money as a producer or an artist. It’s okay to work with an Australian artist. It’s not okay to give lyrics like “I’m a runaway slave master” to your Australian artist. It’s not cool.

We need to be able to have these discussions whether they’re comfortable or not. We just look sloppy, because we don’t have those conversations enough. Then there’s always some fine, White journalist who’s smart and understands these issues are not being addressed. Then they write an article about it and get celebrated while we sit on the sidelines and do nothing about it.

[ALSO READ: Q-Tip Shares A Lesson On The History Of Hip Hop, Racism & White Privilege With Iggy Azalea]

For more information about Sacha Jenkins’ Fresh Dressed visit freshdressedmovie.com

Watch the trailer for the documentary below.

PHOTOS: Aftermath, Def Jam