Early on, the tenets of hip hop culture were simple − peace, unity, love, and fun. But times have changed and expressions have drastically morphed from breakdancing and graffiti, to gangster story-telling, crip-walking, booty twerking, making it rain, and even activism.  In the new documentary series The Message, premiering on BET tonight at 10pm, viewers get a rare treat of entertainment and education on the beloved and much maligned culture of hip hop. Produced by founder of The Shadow League, Keith Clinkscales, The Message comes just in time for Black Music Month.

“This basically shows how the message being communicated by hip hip has changed over the years and how the bar is set to where it is today,” says Clinkscales, who is also the CEO of Revolt TV. “VH1 did a show called The Tanning of America, but that only took a look at one side of the situation. With The Message, we take a look at the geographic parameters.”

Featuring interviews from the pioneers and success stories of hip hop, The Message includes appearance by Russell Simmons, Ice Cube, Birdman, Pharrell, Nas, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, Rick Ross, MC Lyte, Master P, LL Cool J, Big Boi, Bun B, 2 Chainz, Eve, Angie Martinez, Funkmaster Flex, Luther Campbell, Clive Davis, Mona Scott-Young, Questlove, A$AP Rocky, E-40, David Banner, Fab Five Freddy, Nelson George, Big Tigger, Sway, and even music executive Chris Lighty’s final on-air interview.  

“I would like to give a nod to Stephen Hill [BET President of Music Programming and Specials]. He puts his mark on this project,” says Clinkscales, who also created ESPN’s award-winning documentary series 30 for 30. “And I’m very proud that BET not only agreed to work with me on this project, but they did a very good job as well. They were instrumental in helping us get all the interviews we needed.”

Unlike other documentary offerings that have covered hip hop, The Message explores how the cultural belief systems of various populaces and geographies where hip hop took hold were instrumental in changing the message significantly from locale to locale.

“I think it is very important that people know how the geographic regions effect hip hop,” Clinkscales adds. “From its beginnings in the Bronx and Queens to the West coast, to areas like Atlanta, New Orleans, and Miami.”

Produced by Sam Walker, Director of Music Specials and Productions, BET Networks, Clinkscales and The Shadow League Media, The Message is a must see for connoisseurs and students of the culture. The first of this four-part documentary series will debut on BET tonight, Wednesday, June 4,  at 10pm. With new episodes airing every Wednesday this month.