Thursday, September 29, 2005


Ok so I said a bit back that I would blog on this DVD, and so here it is. WildStyle is a film from 1982 that captured the emerging hip/hop scene coming from out of New York City's South Bronx. It centers around two, real-life, and now legendary, grafitti artists, Zoro (Lee Quinones) and Pink (Sandra Fabara), and their life of creating grafitti murals and "bombing" (grafitti-ing) the city's trains. A female writer who had heard of the scene comes up to the South Bronx to witness and write about grafitti artists, and also learns about the other aspects of the urban hip/hop scene; MC'ing at the street parties with folks like Grand Master Flash, rappers like Busy Bee, the Cold Crush Crew, the Fantastic Five, and incredible breakdancers like Crazy Legs and the RockSteady Crew. The film culminates with a now legendary street party production, captured in the film at a neighborhood park band shell somewhere on the Lower East Side. Here you see the Cold Crush Crew, Busy Bee, the RockSteady B-boys, and many others, put on a genuine display of the creativity of urban peoples, to the obvious enjoyment of the crowds which came to take part in an organic, from the people street party.

What I so like about this film (despite the cheesy acting, but c'mon, these kids were the "real deal", not actors), was probably the first portrayal to the world of the incredible talent that exists in the ghettos and barrios of this country, highlighted here by the kids of the South Bronx. These kids, with very limited resources, put on neighborhood street parties with little more than a few turntables, a place to hold a party, the raw talent of their voices, and in the case of the breakdancers, the pure physicality of their very bodies; one of the very few things that they might own completely outright in neighborhoods where people don't own very much but their own dreams. This urban creativity now has been embraced by the whole world, but this is where it all got started, in a place where poor kids found a way to create their own scene and to revel and enjoy themselves in a world that usually rejects Black and Puerto Rican youth as undesirables to be rebuffed or avoided, at best. It was only a matter of time until the larger world began to recognize the amazing talent of these young people, and the incredible neighborhood scene that they had created for themselves out of necessity, something that the rest of the world would covet for its own once it was clued into the electricity of what was happening.

What was (and is) a little sad is that so many of the early pioneers of this hip/hop scene were never really able to take part in some of the benefits that they had perhaps dreamed of as the scene became increasingly commercialized and corporatized (thereby loosing so much of that early, organic creativity). These kids were genuine street artists, not savy business moguls, and so what eventually occurred is that the private-school educated types like P. Diddy and Tupac Shakur and their mommas, along with their corporate overseers, came along and pimped the scene for profit, moving it out of the 'hood, and later then began to target those CD sales to the suburbs; so that as of now (and for quite awhile) hip/hop is purchased about 80% or so by young white males, buying in to the urban caricatures created by the Diddys and their ilk that portray Black and other minority peoples in the sterotypical ways that so many in the majority population love to see. It is now today largely no more than the old minstrel show phenomenon, updated for a newer audience, where blacks are portrayed as ignorant, dangerous, and something "other", something that many whites love to buy into (and if you don't believe it, witness the Hurricane Katrina phenomenon, where "looting and raping" was referred to again and again and again, with many stories arising without any verification as to their veracity; but babies dying of heat exhaustion in the Superdome seemed to get nowhere near the same press, these babies being perhaps not the "right" complexion to engender any sympathy).

This film dispels all of that, and shows what poor urban kids can do on their own, and with no one's help. They can create something out of nothing; something that the whole world would want one day. WildStyle is the real deal, and it serves as both a remembrance and a model for a newer generation that is rejecting the corporatized bling-bling in favor of a return to credibility and originality, that in this genre, comes up from the street, the neighborhood, and the people, and definitely not from the corporate boardroom.


Blogger willowtree said...

Ive never seen this film before, it sounds similar to a documentary that is shown on VH1 from time to time called: And You Dont Stop: 30 years of Hip Hop.
I think it is a real shame that the original people who knew hip hop before hip hop knew what it was, get nothing these days. And the people who are getting's not about music or lyrics, or beats, it's about bling and 160K cars. Eight of them because, like lays, you cant have just one.
When I was younger, I wasnt allowed to listen to the radio, but on the way to school, everyone would join in the morning "rap" and that is how I learned the words to many a rap song back in the day hehe.
Good memories.

7:58 PM  

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