EXCLUSIVE: Amazon Studios, Hillman Grad Productions, and Good Trouble Studios are partnering for the feature-length documentary Gifted & Black for Prime Video, Deadline has learned.
James Adolphus will direct, with actor, producer, and Emmy-winning writer Lena Waithe producing under her Hillman Grad Productions alongside Swizz Beatz and Timbaland.
Inspired by Swizz Beatz and Timbaland’s music phenomenon Verzuz, Gifted & Black explores the traditions of Black music to connect, going from the plantation to the Pulitzer Prize. Set against the backdrop of the pandemic and the recent racial reckoning, Gifted & Black frames those traditions in the context of the collective resiliency fundamental to the Black experience. While tracking the exponential growth of Swizz and Timabland’s Triller-owned Verzuz music enterprise from its onset, the docu interweaves the roots of Black music, embedding in Black communities and with Black musical artists, through poignant interviews, gripping vérité and magnetic archival footage, offering insights into how Black music continues to be an uplifting and uniting salvation that endures through uncertain times.
Hillman Grad Productions’ Rishi Rajani, Good Trouble Studios’ Ben Selkow, and James Adolphus, Monique Blake, and Gary Marella will also produce.
“I’m grateful to Swizz and Tim for trusting us with something so historic,” said Waithe on behalf of Hillman Grad Productions. “Verzuz is more than just two artists going song-for-song. It’s a testament to the power of Black people. It’s the joyful celebration of legacy that we all needed. With this documentary, we’re excited to take audiences behind the scenes of this global phenomenon, while also paying tribute to the artists that shaped us. We could not be more grateful to Amazon for seeing the vision, and this film wouldn’t be possible without our amazing filmmakers, James Adolphus and Ben Selkow. They have flown to every city, interviewed every artist, and continue to capture history as it happens. We can’t wait for the world to see how this whole thing comes together.”
“When we first started this mission the entire world had hit rock bottom. People were going through so much and Tim and I felt we should do something to help folks escape,” Swizz Beatz added, “The rest is history, we made the magical call to Hillman Grad because we only wanted people to see the best of the best.”
“Swizz and I are excited to show the world everything that took place behind scenes during the process, while celebrating the artists that helped us build Verzuz,” said Timbaland. “Thank you to our entire team, Hillman Grad, James Adolphus, Ben Selkow, Amazon, Triller, and everyone involved. Verzuz came from our love of culture and our love of music and the fact that it has become the force it is today is way beyond anything Swizz or I could’ve imagined.”
“The launch of Verzuz reminded us of the multigenerational excitement for music ‘battles,’ which gave us the escape we all craved in 2020,” said Matt Newman, co-head of movies at Amazon Studios. “We are thrilled to work with Hillman Grad, Good Trouble, Swizz Beatz, and Timbaland to give audiences a behind-the-scenes look at the building of the Verzuz franchise.”
Waithe, Hillman Grad and Good Trouble are all repped by WME. Waithe is additionally repped by Del Shaw and Theresa Kang-Lowe.
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