The director, co-writer, and executive producer recommends seven pieces of art that have impacted his creative process, from Kanye West to Miles Davis.

Morgan Cooper was born in 1991, a year after The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air premiered on NBC. Some 30 years — and a viral video — later and Cooper has become a director, co-writer, and executive producer on Bel-Air, the Peacock series that dramatically reimagines a little story all about how a kid's life got flipped, turned upside down.

Will Smith, Morgan Cooper, and Jabari Banks
| Credit: Eric Charbonneau/Peacock

As a true child of the '90s, Cooper came of age amid a Black cultural renaissance that now is being revered, referenced, remixed, and rebooted for a new generation. EW spoke to Cooper about the culture that defined him and continues to drive him. Check out a few of his inspirations below.

Credit: Island World/Kobal/Shutterstock

Juice (1992) directed by Ernest R. Dickerson

That movie left an indelible mark on me as a young boy and still to this day continues to inspire me. The pureness of that movie and the craftsmanship of it is incredible. It's so authentic. I was way too young to be watching it — I was 10 years old watching Juice — but it was so real and cathartic, even at a young age. It really mattered to me and the guys I was running with.

Donuts by J Dilla
Credit: Stones Throw Records

Donuts (2006) — J Dilla

Incredible album. Would definitely recommend. You can throw it on in any sort of situation — there's every type of emotional concept on that album. Joy, pain, sorrow, catharsis, love, just everything. It embodies the full emotional spectrum all through instrumental hip-hop. It was Dilla's last piece of art that he created before he left this earth. R.I.P. Dilla.

Madvillainy by Madvillain
Credit: Stones Throw Records

Madvillainy (2004) — Madvillain

That album literally changed my life. I think people say that a lot, but that album changed my life. It changed the way I view art. There's actually an MF Doom Easter egg in Bel-Air — R.I.P. MF Doom, damn. But yeah, Madvillainy, I'd never heard hip-hop like that before. I grew up on Dipset, Cam'ron, Roc-A-Fella, Freeway, Peedi Crakk, State Property, Beans. Like, that's what I was listening to and all of a sudden I hear this really obscure record with this guy with the mask on the cover; I'm like, What the hell is this? The first time I listened to it I didn't know what to do with it. I was just like, It's really interesting. And every time I listen to it, still to this day, I can play it and it feels like the first time I was listening to it. It changed the way I view art because it challenged convention. MF Doom and Mad Lib said we're going to make the album on our terms and we're going to lean into different sonic palettes that you haven't heard before. It has a narrative throughout that is unbelievable. I can't say enough about that album. One of my favorite albums of all time.

Credit: Kerry Hayes

Spotlight (2015) directed by Tom McCarthy

Man, that movie... it's such an incredible movie. And I think the incredible thing about Spotlight is that it was attacking a very sensitive subject with the Catholic Church. They made that movie in such a way that it was tasteful and it was never graphic — it didn't have to be in order to make its point. It was done so artistically and the acting and performances are so well done.

The College Dropout by Kanye West
Credit: Roc A Fella

The College Dropout (2004) — Kanye West

The College Dropout left a huge mark on me. No one had ever heard anything like that before and Ye, just his holistic vision on that record, making both the beats and doing the raps. I mean, it's a one of one record. Every song goes. That's one of those joints you just press play from the beginning and you let it run, skits and all. It doesn't matter, you can play that whole thing and he's telling such an incredible story. And just some of the bars on that: "Oh my God, is that a black card?" / I turned around and replied, "Why yes / But I prefer the term African American Express." Just like bars on bars on bars for days. I could listen to that album over and over on repeat because the artistry is so there. But it's so raw and has this angst to it 'cause it's his first joint and he had something to prove back then. You can feel the hunger on that tape.

Miles: The Autobiography and Coltrane on Coltrane book covers

Miles: The Autobiography (1990) by Miles Davis and Quincy Troupe and Coltrane on Coltrane: The John Coltrane Interviews (2010) by Chris Davies and John Coltrane

Just a really intimate, at times uncomfortable, glimpse into Miles Davis' life and backstory and things that he experienced. Phew! Really, really deep. Same thing with Coltrane's as well. Miles and Coltrane's autobiographies — would absolutely recommend. Really special books from brilliant masters of their instruments.

Bel-Air is streaming on Peacock.

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