Title: Beat Street (1985)
Directed by: Stan Lathan
Written by: Steven Hager (story) and Andrew Davis (screenplay)
Tagline: “The music and break-dance explosion of the summer!”
Starring: Rae Dawn Chong as Tracy Carlson
Guy Davis as Kenny ‘Double K’ Kirkland
Jon Chardiet as Ramon
Leon W. Grantas Chollie
By Rob and El Ron
Rob’s pre-screening memories: You can’t let the streets beat you.
…Even though, for me, those streets were next to manicured lawns, smack dab in well-lit suburbia.
What was this form of dance called ‘break,’ and this new music called rap?
Actually, nothing. It had been alive and well for more than a decade, but it took a little while to make it to my slice of white-bread suburbia.
When it did, we could not get enough. Parachute pants, a slab of cardboard (in case someone stepped to you in a threatening breakin’ challenge), and, of course, the inevitable “ghetto blaster” that had more buttons than we knew how to operate. Though I never could force myself to spend money on that Alfonso Ribeiro Poppin’ and Lockin’ how-to book:
Of course, our boom boxes were never without the soundtrack Beat Street: Melle Mel, Afrika Bambaataa, even actor Ruben Blades (who wasn’t even in the movie!) got in on the action. It wasn’t just rap music, but entire seismic shift in our listening behavior.
And the film itself not only introduced us to breakdancing, but rapping, scratching and “tagging.” In other words, it was immersed in the culture it demonstrated it, whereas Breakin‘, which was released a month prior, seemed to merely capitalize on the craze (what the hell’s a Boogaloo Shrimp, anyway?).
This film led to Wild Style, Krush Groove and a host of other films, but, for me, Beat Streetwas my first brush and what felt as close to the real deal. Now, step back, yo. And watch me kick out some def poprocking on your punk ass!
El Ron’s pre-screening memories: I always felt bad for those who came of age in the early 1990s. We had all those awesome breakdancing movies that Rob listed above. But if you wanted to jump aboard the latest dance craze, what did you have?
The Lambada, that’s what. (There’s a reason that dance is forbidden.)
Anyway, when the breakdancing craze spun into my area, I can remember a lot of the older local kids competing in area and regional competitions (break-offs? break-downs? break-fasts?). They were the gods of the neighborhood. They would be decked out in their bucket hats, shiny zippered pants, matching jackets (sleeves pushed up, of course), and usually a headband with a spare in the back pocket.
I, of course, had my signature move, but was never bold enough to bring it to the next level.
Now my breakin’ would be broken, but I am still excited to revisit this film that I remember as being the crib-sheet for many of the moves that we attempted in my youth (with decidedly mixed results!).
Podcast Ep. XLVII: ‘Beat Street’ with musician Ralph Rolle
Pop and lock right here for some the Beat Street Podcast, or moonwalk down below:
Our featured guest: Ralph Rolle
Where do you even begin with a talent like Ralph? He’s performed with some of the top names, performed on some of the most prestigious stages and performed some of the most memorable numbers in the past three decades.
He has performed with Nas, Chaka Kahn, Joss Stone, Freddie Jackson, Gladys Knight, Patti LaBelle, Eryka Badu, Jennifer Hudson, Ne-Yo, Little Steven Van Sandt, Groove Theory, Notorious B.I.G., Vanessa Williams, Jill Scott, Aaliyah.
It’s Showtime at the Apollo, David Letterman, BET Awards, The Chris Rock Show, The Cosby Show, A Different World, and more are just a few stops on Rolle’s resume. Or, perhaps you remember a little song he cut in the 1980s in an attempt to put an end to all that “Roxanne” nonsense that was cluttering the airwaves at the time:
We can’t thank Ralph enough for joining us for this bodyrock back in time and for his contribution to music throughout the years. And yes, Ralph, you will see us up on stage at the Apollo!
Thank you, Ralph! Please check out Ralph’s latest project, called Im Giggin, where you can pre-register and get networked into the entertainment community.