Pittsburgh hip hop has a storied history, but aside from a few standout exports in the last decade, it's a story that mostly goes untold. Pittsburgh State of Mind, a new documentary premiering at SouthSide Works on March 15, aims to bring those stories to light.
"The documentary basically focuses on inner-city artists, their struggle with everyday life, and the ways they're trying to make it out of the situations they're in, through music," says director Jay "Ruff Bone" White, a Beltzhoover-born filmmaker and founder of the South Side-based production company Plug Media.
Last year, White returned to Pittsburgh after living in North Carolina for 10 years, and began interviewing local artists for Pittsburgh State of Mind. His previous documentary series, Bloccs, Projects and Entertainment, put a spotlight on Pittsburgh's often-overlooked neighborhoods like Wilkinsburg, Homewood and the Hill District. For State of Mind, White wanted to focus specifically on the city's musical subcultures and their working musicians. He shot, conducted and edited the interviews over the last year.
The documentary mines the city's distinct neighborhoods and slang to create a roadmap of Pittsburgh's varied hip-hop styles, such as trap, house and street. White says he wants his film to spread that message: "I'm trying to bridge the gap between black, white, hip-hop rappers, backpack rappers, whoever the case may be."
Along with the documentary, White is releasing an original soundtrack to the film with a hip-hop showcase at Rex Theater this Friday. After the local premiere and showcase — billed as Pittsburgh State Of Mind Weekend — White plans to submit Pittsburgh State Of Mind to film festivals across the country.
"I want their story to get out there and to show how they're living and what their struggle is on an everyday basis," says White. "I just basically want to get it across the globe and let people see Pittsburgh, see the artists, see the city."