Although the beginnings of hip hop culture’s origins can be traced back to the early 1970’s as the Bronx’s answer to disco music, it wasn’t until the early 1980’s when the culture began to transition into America’s mainstream. The music of hip hop (DJ’ing) and the spoken word (rap) delivered over break beats became a viable art form, as well as the last truly American music genre to emerge in the 20th century. Once the first records were pressed (Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” and Afrika Bambatta & the Soul Sonic Force’s “Planet Rock”), hip hop then became profitable to record industry executives willing to invest. The first albums came to fruition, as well as the first Hollywood films.
“Important Hip Hop Films You Should Watch” is a new series that I am starting which serves to provide comprehensive reviews and analyses of the genre’s most significant films. Hip hop has produced a broad variety of films which include documentaries, biographies, musicals, fiction and beyond. Although many films with hip hop themes are still being made today, there are also many films that didn’t get enough exposure upon their initial release. In fact, some of the best films didn’t even see a theatrical release (Fly By Night but we’ll discuss that another time).
It is my hope that some of you will check out these films for yourselves and formulate your own opinions. I am merely undertaking the responsibility of raising awareness of these projects: past and present. For those of you who’ve already seen these films and have opposition to my critiques, I am sincerely looking forward to getting dissed in the comments section, Facebook and Twitter. Having said that, let’s discuss Krush Groove!
Directed by Michael Schultz, Krush Groove (1985) is the story of young Russell Walker (Blair Underwood) and his partner Rick (Rick Rubin) struggling to get their record label established. (The film itself is based on the story of pioneering duo Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin’s early beginnings and the founding of Def Jam Recordings,) The label’s artists include Run DMC, Kurtis Blow, as well as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, all of which are collectively growing in popularity. However, there is a serious dilemma: neither Russell nor Rick has the money to press records to distribute to retail!
Throughout the film, Russell struggles to keep the label together. After being refused loans from his father and an unspecified financial institution, he resorts to dealing with an unsavory loan shark (“Jay Bee”) and his suspicious crew of jehri-curled goons (Full Force…LMAO!). Krush Groove also chronicles the story of three overweight high school misfits desperately trying to get signed (The Fat Boys), documents the tensions between Russell and his brother Run (which stemmed from conflicts of interest), and explores the romantic dynamic between Russell and Sheila E.
Most notable about Krush Groove are the incredible music performances by Run DMC (“King of Rock” and “It’s Like That”), Sheila E. (“A Love Bizarre” and “Hollyrock”), LL Cool J (“Radio”), Kurtis Blow (“If I Ruled The World”) and The Fat Boys (“Fat Boys”).
In conclusion, Krush Groove is a solid feature with a perfect mix of music, comedy, drama, and romance. If you haven’t seen it, please do so immediately.
Academic Letter Grade: A-
-Charles E. Rigmaiden