By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
Wild Style: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
FIRST RELEASED IN 1983, Charlie Ahearn's graffiti-kid epic Wild Style was a potent, low-budget antidote to the faddish crop of early-'80s hip-hop films (see Breakin', Krush Groove, etc.) that reduced the burgeoning South Bronx movement to a series of contrived backspin battles and ghetto blasts. Part urban fable and part documentary, Ahearn's work caught some of the rap genre's seminal figures on celluloid and, subsequently, on soundtrack wax. With today's rap charts choking on rote negativity and vacuous R&B infusions, the time seems ripe to reconsider this vital reissue.
Mind you, rock ignorami and kids raised on the high-sheen hip hop of Dr. Dre and Puff Daddy are likely to miss the point. We're talking 1983 here--loose mixes, plain-talking didactics, and seemingly prehistoric lyrical flow from the likes of Cold Crush Bros. and Busy Bee. No doubt, tracks like "Basketball Throwdown" (Cold Crush vs. Fantastic Freaks) and Busy's "Street Rap" will be forgettable pebbles on the path from street corner doo-wop to Wu-Tang (s)word-style. But early MCs like Grand Master Caz had noble samurai visions long before the Wu shtick was hatched; "I'm a warrior/My art is my sword," Caz divines on "Wild Style Subway Rap." Double Trouble's "Stoop Rap" makes them creditors to a generation of late-'80s rap tag teams. And yes, that's Busy Bee you hear touting the might of "two turntables and a microphone" alongside DJ A.J., in a track recorded live at Lower Manhattan's Amphitheater. For earnest hip-hop heads, this is nothing short of prophecy. Even latter-day converts can pick out party chants and breakbeat snippets that have since been disseminated by everyone from Public Enemy to Beck and the Beasties.
Though DJ Grand Wizard Theodore is the star and scratch-mix maestro of this collection (no G-funk opus is half as haunting as his ominous "Subway Theme"), Fab 5 Freddy's "Down By Law" leaves an indelible mark. When the sound of a D-train horn drones over the staccato of simulated hand-claps, there's not a trace of melodrama. Like Freddy says, "It's the real deal."