"Look, I'm not here to pick a fight. I'm just here to party all night. So chill out and enjoy the sights."
-John "Rappin" Hood
With their production company Cannon, the Israeli producers Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus were responsible for some of the most entertainingly bad (frequently straight to video) flicks of the eighties. Aside from funding a large swath of Albert Pyun's career, the Golan-Globus team was also responsible for Death Wish sequels, Missing in Action films, The Delta Force, The Apple, Masters of the Universe, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, Bloodsport, Over the Top, Cobra, and Runaway Train (I actually enjoy this one unironically). As is obvious from their filmography, this team had quite a knack for latching onto whatever current film trend was sure to bring in the scratch. Thus they were able to consistently turn a profit and churn out cheap, quickly made pictures.
[Any lovers of cheesy eighties action films are sure to have seen this logo more than once during their formative movie viewing years.]
In their quest for profit, Golan-Globus found no fad or cultural movement that they weren't willing to co-opt. In the early eighties, when, after a long gestation period, rap spread from its birthplace in the South Bronx to the rest of New York and the country, rap movies soon followed. Two of the earliest hip-hop films, the documentary Style Wars, and the frequently sampled, fictionalized documentary Wild Style, boldly announced the dynamic new subculture to the world. Focusing not just on the music but also on the graffiti art and break-dancing movements, these two films proved that this was more than a new style of music. It was a way of life. [Wow, sorry for the obnoxious hyperbolizing.] Golan-Globus rightly recognized that this would be a sure-fire money maker. Their first attempts at using this music to bring in the dollar dollar bills were Breakin' and the sequel Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo (both released in 1984). Although these films were laughably condescending attempts to co-opt the hip-hop culture, they did not go far enough.
Golan-Globus would have to give it their all if they wanted to completely appropriate hip-hop, and erase everything hip-hopian about it. The Breakin' movies were just a little too authentic. After much deliberation and intense planning, they birthed the rap/comedy/musical Rappin'. This further attempt to make rap safe for mass consumption, would soon die sad and lonely, resting eternally in the coffins of numerous dusty VHS bargain bins.
A flamboyant pre-New Jack City Mario Van Peebles stars as John "Rappin" Hood, a Pittsburghian, just released from the pen after serving eighteen months for assault, who has moved back in with his loving grandma (Eyde Byrde) and younger brother Allan (Leo O'Brien). As Hood explains with the power of his rappin' (hey, that's the name of the movie), this is one tight family.
Hood can't stick around to reminisce with the fam, unfortunately, because he has to go to his favorite club and catch up with his entourage. Among the members of Hood's posse are a pre-"E.R." Eriq La Salle as Ice, and a pre-"A Different World" Kadeem Hardison as Moon. While at the club, Hood runs afoul of former partner, now rival, Duane (Charles Grant), a man thirsting for a fight. Hood has sworn off his previous fightin' ways, however, and fights the urge to fight the fight that Duane is itching to fight with him.
Although the Hood/Duane brawl is averted, other conflicts soon arise. Two rivals, one from Hood's crew and the other from Duane's, bump into each other on the dance floor and then have an intense showdown. Instead of succumbing to fisticuffs, however, they resort to an impassioned Broadway style dance-off. Although failing as a credible rap movie, Rappin' succeeds as a piece of fabulous gay cinema. The entire movie is one lead up to a man on man sex scene that never happens. It is a gay porn without the fuckin'.
[Fighting the urge to kiss each other before an intense dance-off.]
The gang rivalry soon takes a backseat to another more important conflict. It seems that greedy landlord Mr. Thorndike (Harry Goz, "Sealab 2021") and his henchman Cedric (Rony Clanton) have been using less than legal means to oust the tenants of Hood's neighborhood so that the two greedy business tycoons can use the land to construct buildings for a mysterious, evil business venture. Although their plan is never made clear, one can only assume that the proposed business involves some combination of baby seal clubbing, tire fires, puppy drowning, and elementary school toxic waste dumping.
Hood and his gang vow to thwart the evil businessman's designs. With Hood's help, the tenants prove too formidable an obstacle for Thorndike and Cedric, who, in turn, hire Duane's gang to rough up the tenants and vandalize property. Oh snap! It's on! The rival gangs converge in a back alley and have at the fightin', though not the fuckin', that this film has been building to. Although Hood's gang triumph's over Duane's, the fight is not over.
Thorndike uses his powerful connections in the city council to get his way. At an intense city-wide meeting, when it seems that all hope is lost, Hood uses the power of his rappin' (hey, that's the name of the movie) to set things right once again.
In case, viewers were unsure whether the previous rap set things right, another rap is included to show that all the folks be getting along now.
Rappin's laughably atrocious rap lyrics are truly where this movie shines. My personal favorite rhymes come during a scene in which Cedric is kicked out of the neighborhood by Hood's gang. After a number of kids jump onto Cedric's car as he attempts to drive away, Hood decides to narrate the events with the power of his rappin' (hey, that's the name of the movie):
Cedric, my man, don't you know that you're wrong?
You need to go back right where you belong.
With your polyester suit and a phony briefcase,
Don't you know that you're a total disgrace?
Sold out to the man for the promise of cash,
And that's why you're about to crash.
And then Cedric crashes into a trash truck. Pure fuckin' poetry.
After witnessing the cartoon that is Rappin', a viewer back in the day might have been forgiven for assuming that this cultural movement had reached its apex and was fading away into parody and eventual obscurity. It would seem that rap had lost any street-cred and was now playing the Vegas circuit. It was far from over, of course, as we all know. Rap's artistic renaissance in the nineties still lay a decade away. [Of course, it's safe to say now that it's a shell of its former self.] Although many more embarrassment's still lay ahead for rap [Trace Adkins' country rap Honky Tonk Badonkadonk comes to mind (I apologize for linking to this).], nothing will ever top the craptasticularness of this particular Golan-Globus feature.