dir. Michael Schultz
I defy anyone to find a more infectious group of films than the hip hop how-tos of the eighties. Watching a shitload of these movies recently, it’s amazing to me that anyone during rap’s nascent years ever found this art-form dangerous. I had to go back and re-listen to some NWA to remind myself that this shit did in fact get pretty real by the end of the decade. But early- to mid-eighties rap: it’s just so damn cuddly, so innocuous, so...just so damn fun. Maybe it’s the primitive beats laid over eighties rhymes, but even when these songs address serious subjects, they seem more informative than confrontational. Or maybe it’s because the nihilism of gangsta rap had yet to gain a foothold and inform all the music of the subsequent decade.
Regardless, eighties rap isn’t scary; but you’d never know that watching some of these old films. In film after film, out-of-touch old-timers had to be placated, told that rap wasn’t as dangerous as it seemed. Maybe it's just that rap was scary because it was new. The old guard just couldn’t adapt: “music is guitar, bass, drums, singing, and white guys with eye-liner and long, flowing Farrah Fawcet hair; not turntables, speak-rhyming and not white guys with eye-liner and long, flowing Farrah Fawcet hair.” Which explains why so many of the early hip hop movies (Style Wars, Wild Style, Beat Street) made pains to explain just what this newfangled hip hop culture was. Young kids sprayed graffiti on buildings and subways because they wanted to express themselves artistically on the biggest, most widely seen canvases; not because they wanted to murder your families. Young kids laid cardboard on the sidewalk and spun on their heads because they wanted to express themselves through dance; not because they wanted to murder your families. And the songs said, “He spins the records, I do the rhyming; we aren’t here to murder your families.” Gangsta rap said: “We’re gonna murder your families.”
Coming at the end of the “what’s this newfangled thing I’ve heard about called rap” phase of the form’s evolution, Krush Groove eschews most of the earlier films’ instructional qualities. Produced by Russell Simmons, Krush Groove, in fact, functions mostly as a showcase for the music producer’s stable of talent: Run-DMC, Kurtis Blow, Sheila E., LL Cool J, and The Fat Boys all make appearances. And like all of these movies, the flimsy plot functions as window dressing from which to hang all of the electric performances. And ain’t a goddamn thing wrong with that.