“Hip-Hop is about peace, love, unity, and having fun,” said MC Busy Bee into his mike. Beats blared as the large crowd’s waving raised hands barely dispersed the faint smell of ganja over the huge warehouse space that is Danbro Studios in East Williamsburg.
The above-described scene, with its raw concrete walls and floors, rapping MCs and the overwhelming cheering crowd, was reminiscent of a party from “Wild Style,” (1983) the “original hip-hop movie.” For the 25th anniversary of the film, Director Charlie Ahearn put out a book documenting the making of the film, and Rhino Home Video released a special 25th Anniversary Edition. Film Forum screened screening “Wild Style” all last week. And Showpaper, a bi-weekly paper promoting DIY shows who hosted the event, appropriately put on a modern version of a 1980s Bronx party with live music by the original architects of the hip-hop scene who inspired “Wild Style”: Busy Bee, Grandmaster Caz of the Cool Crush Brothers and Double Trouble, along newcomer Spank Rock.
In 1983 Ahearn met Busy Bee at a show and told him that he was interested in making a film about the Bronx hip-hop scene, relatively underground at the time. Busy Bee took Ahearn by the hand and led him on stage to announce that they would be working together on a film. The rest is history.
Ahearn’s biggest hope for the project was to have it screened at one of the Kung-Fu theaters that lined 42nd Street at the time. Although he knew the film was important, he never expected it, or hip-hop, to become the cultural phenomenon it is today.
“This movie is the Rocky Horror Picture show of hip-hop,” said Ahearn.
Grandmaster Caz, a.k.a. Grandmaster Cassanova Fly, who was featured in Wild Style, said he hopes to be around for the 50th anniversary.
“Wild Style is the Bible of hip-hop,” said Caz. “As long as history is relevant, Wild Style is going to be relevant.”
Showpaper’s publisher Todd P, who organized the event, said he thinks it’s important to celebrate the DIY movement, an essential element of how the hip-hop movement started.. He said hip-hop has become the dominant musical genre in America attracting a wide variety of people.
“It’s not just young people here. It’s a really great turnout, all over the spectrum, not just one type of person, or race, or age here,” Todd P said.
He was right. The audience included hip NYU Freshmen with skinny jeans and ankle boots, a young CUNY professor, a 44-year-old radio station volunteer from Seattle, all sorts of music professionals, video and graffiti artists, nostalgia-stricken fans from the original Bronx scene and everyone in between.
Rapper duo Fenton Arms and Raylight Hope, who call themselves “the future of hip-hop,” felt honored to be in the same building with the guys who broke ground 25 years ago.
“It’s like you go back in time and actually chill with Malcolm X,” said Arms. “Without that movie rap might not have happened the way it happened.”
Bnita Govens saw one of the first screenings of “Wild Style” on 42nd Street in 1983. She was so affected by the film that she used it as part of her Master’s thesis on Latin contributions to hip-hop. She traveled from Philadelphia for the party.
“It’s like a rebirth for me, being here 25 years later,” said Govens. “Thank you Charlie for having a vision and putting all this together.”
Filmmaker Art Jones (Going Nomad, 1998; Lustre, 2002) said the celebration of “Wild Style” is a good way to show youth the original artistic movement hip-hop was meant to be—an urban folk culture started by black and Latino youth in the Bronx who used turntables and their parents’ records to express themselves, instead of instruments and lessons they couldn’t afford.
“[Tonight] gives young people a gleam into a different vibe, [letting them know] that there was something else other than what we listen to today,” said Jones.
Busy Bee, who has been rapping since 1977, said that what is known as hip hop today is really rap. He said rap is “something we do, while hip-hop is something we live.”
“[Back then] all we did was show love,” said Busy Bee as he took a swig from a bottle of Moet. “Now there is no place on planet Earth where there is no hip-hop, breakdancing, graffiti. And it all came from me, Grandmaster Flash, Kool Hurc, and Africa Bambaataa.”