Friday, August 8, 2014
Beat Street (1984)
Happy Friday Retroholics! It's time to resurrect another flick from our favorite decade. This weeks pick gives a glimpse of New York City's 80's hip-hop culture; featuring plenty of impressive break-dancing, a phenomenal soundtrack and of course, graffiti art.
1984's Beat Street, directed by Stan Lathan, takes place in the South Bronx. Kenny "Double K" Kirkland (Guy Davis) is an aspiring hip-hop DJ trying to make a name for himself in the New York City night club scene with help from his friend and promoter, Chollie. His younger brother Lee, is a B-Boy with the Beat Street Breakers and his best friend is Ramon, a graffiti artist looking to spray his tag on every subway car throughout the city. Tracy Carlson, a college music student and composer, invites Lee to audition for a dance television show. Lee, Kenny and the crew arrive at a dance rehearsal where Lee performs on camera for a spot on the show only to be told he will not be on television in which Kenny defends his brothers interests by scolding Tracy for getting Lee's hopes up. Tracy later visits Kenny and Lee to apologize bu only Kenny is home. Soon the two connect over Kenny's mixing skills. Kenny gets a gig spinning at Burning Spear, a club ran by DJ Kool Herc and uses the opportunity as a stepping stone to get a future gig at the Roxy on New Year's Eve.
Ramon is being pressured by both his father, who hates graffiti art and wants him to get an honest job; and his girlfriend, the mother of his son, who wants them to get a place together and be a family. He soon gets a job at a hardware store and with the help from Kenny and the crew, he fixes up an abandoned apartment for her and the baby to come live with him. Still craving the desire to spray his graffiti art on every subway car in the city, Ramon targets an all white car in which he and Kenny paint once side of. After moving to paint the opposite side Ramon hears noises and spots a rogue graffiti artist known as Spit defacing the side of the car they just finished by tagging his name over it. Ramon chases down Spit and the two begin fighting on the subway tracks. Spit sprays paint in Ramon's eyes before the two roll onto an electrified rail, killing them both.
Now mourning the loss of his friend, Kenny considers not performing at the Roxy's New Year's Eve show but with the support from Tracy he decides to turn his biggest gig into a celebration of his best friends life. It's an emotionally rockin' finale to the film, ending with Kenny performing part of "Beat Street Breakdown" with images of Ramon flanking the screens to each side and is joined by Grandmaster Melle Mel & the Furious Five to finish out the track. A gospel choir backed by break-dancers finish out the film.
As I've said, the music is stellar. With performances by well known 80's hip-hop artists such as, Doug E. Fresh, Afrika Bambaataa & the Soul Sonic Force, The Treacherous Three, Kool Moe Dee, Grandmaster Melle Mel & the Furious Five, and Tina B, this film is packed full of great jams for you to enjoy. Along with great music in the film, there was some great break-dancing battles from the infamous New York City Breakers and the Rock Steady Crew, some of the most well known breakers of the 80's.
A perfect synthwave accommodation to this film has to be the Synthetix.FM Stereo Sonic Electro Rockin' Mixtape 2014, mixed by Rick Shithouse himself for this year's International Boombox Day. It features 23 tracks from some of the best producers in the synthwave scene, and it's free to download so you should totally treat your ear holes to these awesome sounds!
So, if you want to scratch that break-dancing itch then suit up in your best adidas track suit, lace up your Nike Air Force high-tops and enjoy this rockin' film. Until next week my fellow rockers, have fun and be safe!