VH1 Orders Backdoor Pilot for Hip-Hop Drama (Exclusive)

The Big Payback Cover - P 2015
Courtesy of NAL Trade

The Big Payback Cover - P 2015

As VH1 prepares to launch its next scripted drama, Hindsight, on Wednesday night, the cable network is prepping another.

The Viacom-owned cabler has ordered The Breaks, a TV movie based on Dan Charnas' best-selling book The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

Production will begin in the spring for a fall premiere this year, with the option to become a series should the TV movie perform. Seith Mann (who directed episodes of The Wire, The Walking Dead and, more recently, Elementary) will pen the script, exec produce and direct. Charnas will also exec produce and co-wrote the story for the script. VH1's Susan Levison, Bill Flanagan and Maggie Malina will exec produce.

The Breaks (working title) chronicles the journey of Nikki, David and DeeVee, three friends united by their love of hip-hop, as they work to make their big mark in the music industry.

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Like VH1's Hindsight, the film will be set in the '90s in New York, where the music industry’s artists and hustlers intersect in the dance clubs and the street corners of the still crime-ridden city. The story centers around Nikki Jones, a brilliant recent grad who abandoned a scholarship to law school to pursue her dream of becoming a record exec. Her boyfriend, David Aaron, is the scrappy son of a legendary music producer who is unwilling to rest on his father’s laurels and notorious reputation. DeeVee is an aspiring producer on the hunt to find the next big rapper on the come-up. Nikki fast talks her way into an internship at the premier hip-hop company, Fouray Entertainment, and catches the eye of the label's infamous founder, while David struggles at the city's top R&B radio station whose celebrity DJ refuses to program real hip-hop. Meanwhile, DeeVee returns to his roots in the Fort Greene projects to scout for talent and runs into Ahm, a drug dealer with a lyrical gift whose talent could bring them all to the next level.  But they will soon discover lives can be broken as fast as legends can be born.

The Breaks marks the third TV movie at VH1 as the music-themed network pushes further into scripted fare. It joins 2013's CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story and Drumline: A New Beat.

The Big Payback is considered one of the most comprehensive accounts of the history and business of hip-hop. Charnas documented the rise of the genre as a writer for The Source, the first rap magazine, and is a former record executive. His book chronicles 40 years of stories and was culled from more than 300 interviews with execs, entrepreneurs, hustlers and handlers.

Hindsight centers on a woman on the eve of her second wedding who, when thinking about her life's decisions, winds up back in 1995, on the morning of her first wedding. It marks VH1's third original scripted drama, following cheerleading entry Hit the Floor and the recently canceled Single Ladies. The latter, VH1's first and longest-running original drama, was revived for a fourth season at BET and VH1 sibling network Centric.
The Breaks comes as hip-hop continues to be a hot trend in scripted fare. Fox on Wednesday will debut its high-profile drama Empire, from creators Lee Daniels and Danny Strong, and Starz has already renewed its hip-hop tale Power, from exec producer 50 Cent, for a second season. 

Mann is repped by CAA.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
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