American Rapstar

American Rapstar

Director: Justin Staple
USA / 74 min. / 2020 / English

A new scene of troubled, lo-fi young rappers have emerged from Trump’s America.

Exploiting the possibilities of social media to engage with a rapid fan base, a new breed of stars like Lil Peep, Smokepurpp, and Realbhadbhabie have disrupted the music industry, sidestepping traditional gatekeepers to shock the world with their rambunctious antics, prescription drug use, facial tattoos, and irreverent punk energy. What do these newly minted millionaire artists say about the state of youth culture today and the future of the music streaming economy?

American Rapstar examine the SoundCloud rap scene’s biggest stars from within the culture, as well as placing them in the broader musical context in an attempt to understand how we arrived here and where we are headed.


Now based in Bucharest, Romania by way of Amsterdam, Brooklyn, and a few other places, Steve is the communications manager and industry editor for documentary magazine Modern Times Review (Oslo/Bucharest). He is also the documentary correspondent for the Romanian film platform, Films in Frame Magazine. Prior to his relocation to Europe, he was the co-founder and senior editor for New York-based indie film magazine IndieWood/Hollywoodn’t. Not to be outdone with film, Steve is also a music journalist specializing in electronic and dance music. He was editor in chief of the Deep House Amsterdam platform and has written for the likes of Crack Magazine, Magnetic Magazine, The Wire, and more.

Introduction by

Based in Amsterdam, creative director Jesse Koch’s upbringing on both rock & hip-hop music is reflected heavily in his work. With his father being a musician and his mom being a painter, Koch always had a passion for visual arts.
In 2016 he co-founded creative platform Shots Fired , which quickly led to him working with a large range of musicians including Post Malone, Lil Peep, Juice WRLD, Migos; and brands such as Valentino, Maison Martin Margiela, Daily Paper, Carhartt, Snipes & more.
He has also worked as a video director for artists including Yung Mavu, Unotheactivist, Tawsen and Lil Skid; as well as a tour photographer for Wale, Sahbabii, ThouxanbanFauni, A$AP Mob and others. For this premiere event Koch will present some of his work, talk about collaborating with rappers on the road and this film in particular.

Available screenings:




Thursday 17th, 20:00h

Het Ketelhuis 1

Live Q&A with director Justin Staple, moderated by Steve Rickinson




Friday 18th June, 19:00h

Melkweg Cinema

Introduction by Jesse Koch and live Q&A with director Justin Staple, moderated by Steve Rickinson



Wednesday 14th July, 19:00h

Forum, Groningen



Lil Peep, Smokepurpp, Bhad Bhabie


Justin Staple


Michael Pessah


Braxton Pope, Kerstin Emhoff