Interview: Seith Mann On VH1's 'The Breaks,' Revisiting The '90s & The Origins Of Hip-Hop
It’s so deeply embedded in our culture now, that it’s hard to remember a time when hip-hop was just a movement. It was once the ugly step-sister in the music industry desperate to shine, and it took some very ambitious and brazen people, to push the sound of a generation to the forefront of mainstream culture. Picking up where the two-hour television movie (which aired last year) left off, “The Breaks” television series is about being ambitious, embracing the grind and never settling for anything less than what you want. Set in the summer of 1990, “The Breaks” follows Nikki Jones (Afton Williamson), David Aaron (David Call) and DeeVee (Mack Wilds) as they claw their way up the ladder in the music industry during a time when hip-hop was seen as just a fad.
Director Seith Mann has fleshed out his characters and storylines, shining a light on the dedication and sacrifices that have long since been forgotten. Recently, I spoke with Mann about the series, what inspired him to tell this story, and how his characters have shocked him.
Seith Mann: Hi Aramide, how are you?
Aramide Tinubu: Hi Seith, I’m well how are you?
SM: I’m blessed and highly favored.
AT: Wonderful! First and foremost, congratulations on season one of “The Breaks.” I know we’re only about halfway in, but it’s already gotten such amazing reviews, and it’s so well done.
SM: Thank you very much, I appreciate that!
AT: No problem! So, I would love to chat about what inspired you to do this piece. I know that Dan Charnas’ book, “The Big Payback” was really instrumental in inspiring the idea for you, but did you know prior to reading the book that you wanted to work on a piece about hip-hop in the ‘90s?
SM: I was reading the book because I wanted to do a historical piece about hip-hop, and how hip-hop has become this thing; this world power. It was so much bigger than just music at a certain point, and I knew it didn’t start that way. So, I was doing a bunch of research because I was a kid who grew up listening to rap, but I wasn’t in the music business, I just listened to it all of the time. I didn’t know the history like that other than just being a fan. “The Big Payback” was one of the many books that I read. It was the one that really touched me because it was just so spot on. It was non-fiction written like fiction; it was a page-turner. It’s like a one thousand page book or something like that, and I couldn’t put it down. I read it really fast. At the same time, the author of the book, Dan Charnas had set it up at VH1 to do a movie. The research agent Chris Lawson, who had helped me find the book, flagged the project for me, and I started talking with Maggie Malina who is the Head of Scripted at VH1 and Dan about exactly what they had in mind. I went back and forth with Dan about the story, and before I knew it, it was mine to tell. So, that’s how I got involved with it.