The Mic Drop Review Part 2 – A Conversation with Darius West

In my previous article I discussed the history making documentary Mic Drop: The Culture of Christian Hip Hop. After posting the article I got the opportunity to the director of the film himself, Darius West. Here is a look at our conversation. Enjoy!

How about a little of your backstory?

Grew up with a single mom and older brother in Charlotte, NC in the 70s/80s in my grandma’s house until 1988. My mom, brother and I moved to Tulsa, OK in 1988 where my mom began to attend ORU in graduate studies as a teacher. 

How did you become interested in film making? 

My love for film started at a young age when my mother used to take me and my brother every Tuesday during the summers spent in Charlotte. 

When did you become a fan of CHH? 

My introduction to CHH came in 1988 when I got a hold of a Stephen Wiley and Michael Peace tape (ironically, the same year Soup the Chemist/P.I.D. discovered Wiley/Peace as the forerunners of the genre). I began to rap in 1989 with my first trip back to Charlotte for Summer Camp in 1989. 

What inspired you to make Mic Drop? “

Mic Drop” began as a passion project for myself and Michael-Anthony Taylor (Exec. Producer) that paid homage to a lot of the groups that we were either connected with through our time in the industry as a Christian artists and aspiring tour partners with CARMAN — many of us in the early 90s shared the same management out of Tulsa, OK because in 1990-1992 it was still a very young sub-genre. Groups like ETW, D.O.C., P.I.D., SFC, D2, IDOL K.I.N.G. all rolled around within the same circles — many of whom I danced behind while as an opener for them whenever they came to Tulsa, OK.

What was the first step and the last step in making a film like this? In other words, after you get inspired, what’s the first action you take to make it happen?

Because I attended film school and had a working knowledge of what it took to make a film, I understood that the first step was to create a “Sizzle Reel” (a filmmaker’s personal business card to secure either investors or distributor)… and because I knew that in order for this film to have success we needed distribution that would eventually attract investors. The first step was the most important and that is what we secured in 2015 – distribution with Warner Music Group. I travelled for the better part of year getting interviews from anyone who said “yes” and there were many who said “no.” But, that’s a different story, altogether (LOL)

What are some other aspects of the documentary process?

Having the few believe in your ultimate vision… this began with investors and a co-producer (Fred Lynch) who was instrumental in helping bring groups and individuals to the table to further the interview pool for this type of film. 

How do you know when your the job is done?

As a filmmaker, your job is never done. You just have to stop. It’s impossible to tell a story like this is the time allotted so you have to make sure that what you tell and how you tell the story isn’t just for the CHH enthusiast or current CHH listener… it had to be something that appealed to three different audiences: Those that know, those that just found out, and those whom never knew it existed. 

What were the biggest challenges when making Mic Drop? 

Getting everyone to understand that in order for individual stories to be told, we must agree to tell a story together that would connect and propel all involved. Unfortunately, there were those who missed out on being part of making history because everyone can’t see what you see and that’s alright. 

What was your favorite part about making the film?

The journey. The process. And understanding better the patience that comes with recognizing the timing of God. Eight years ago when I began this journey, it was nowhere in our mind that the 50th Anniversary of Hip Hop was in 2023, but GOD DID… and He made sure that the release date took place in a year that made sense for everyone in both the mainstream and Christian Hip Hop industries.

With how widespread CHH has become and with how many artists/creatives there are now associated with the sub-genre, what do you think CHH can learn from this specific era covered in Mic Drop?

That there were those that came before them to pave a way, build doors and platforms that they would never have to build or go through because they are standing on the shoulders of those who were called and planted seeds over 30 years ago that many artists today are reaping the harvest from the laborers that came ahead of them. 

*Bonus Question* What kind of projects are you are up to next? Would you do a Mic Drop Part 2? A late 90s early 2000s edition?

Currently, we are fully focused on other stories on our plate that will also be released in the next two years. Also, the focus is to secure a production deal so that it won’t just be about “Mic Drop 2” but a docuseries called “Mic Drop” that chronicles the full history of stories within the genre that came find the light of day because of the platform that we have been able to create on a major streaming platform. 

I am so grateful to be able have this conversation with Mr. West and I am excited to see what he will do next. If you haven’t seen “Mic Drop” yet, you should definitely go check it out! It is available on Qello, Prime Video, iTunes, and YouTube.