Classic Hip-Hop Documentary: ‘Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool’ (1994) [FULL FILM]


By Justin Chadwick | @justin_chadwick

On Gang Starr’s classic 1990 single “Jazz Thing”—which appeared on the soundtrack to Spike Lee’s Mo’ Better Blues—Guru prophesized that “Jazz ain’t the past, the music’s gonna last / And as the facts unfold, remember who foretold / The ‘90s will be the decade of a jazz thing.” Guru would help guide his prediction toward fruition a few years later when he unveiled his inventive Jazzmatazz project in 1993. Featuring jazz icons like Roy Ayers, Donald Byrd, Ronnie Jordan, Branford Marsalis, and Lonnie Liston Smith, the series’ inaugural volume celebrated hip-hop’s inextricable musical and spiritual connection with jazz.

Indeed, although the inceptions of jazz and hip-hop occurred decades apart, they share much in common. Most importantly, both styles represent vital articulations of the Black experience in America, a fact that was further reinforced in the sobering yet poignant 1994 documentary film Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool. Named after jazz saxophonist Oliver Nelson’s 1961 composition “Stolen Moments,” from his masterful The Blues and the Abstract Truth LP, the film was a visual companion piece to the fifth musical compilation released by the not-for-profit Red Hot Organization, whose motto is “Fighting AIDS Through Pop Culture.”


Together with the accompanying album, the beautifully shot short-film brought much-needed attention to—and empathy for—the escalating AIDS epidemic at the time, particularly within Black and other ethnic minority communities. Originally broadcast on PBS and taking obvious cues from the Jazzmatazz initiative, Stolen Moments juxtaposes black & white interview footage, including Dr. Cornel West’s always-incisive perspective, with full-color live performances featuring the likes of Guru, Digable Planets, MC Solaar, Meshell Ndegeocello, The Last Poets, and The Pharcyde. Other artists featured include Carleen Anderson, Lester Bowie, Donald Byrd, Ron Carter, Ronnie Jordan, Joshua Redman, Pharoah Sanders, and The Roots.


Without further ado, we invite you to join us in revisiting this important film and its soul-affirming music below. Then peep a few bonus videos that showcase some of the finest jazz-imbued hip-hop compositions from Common, Digable Planets, Gang Starr, Robert Glasper Experiment featuring Yasiin Bey, Guru, Queen Latifah, The Pharcyde, The Roots, A Tribe Called Quest, and The UMCs.

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