The 80’s were littered with Hip-Hop influenced movies with films like Wild Style, Breakin’, Beat Street, and so on and so forth. For what it’s worth, I love this genre, which I will dub Hip-Hopsploitation since many of them were taking something new and popular, and capitalizing on it (which is still very common today). Some of these films are actually pretty solid, namely the ones I mention above, but there are the few that are a little less respectable, but still oh-so-fun. These movies are a window into the past, a window that’s view is filled with crazy bad outfits, hair styles, and people that probably shouldn’t be picking up a mic for any reason at all.
One of those people that probably shouldn’t have spit any lyrics, is the man known as Mario Van Peebles, in the 1985 film, Rappin’! But boy am I glad he did. Rappin’ is the tale of “Rappin’” John Hood (MVP), whom after getting out of jail, comes back home to find a lot has changed since he went away. Some of his old associates have formed a new rival gang, his girl is dating the gangs leader, and some corporate scum bags are trying to take over the neighborhood by getting rid of the tenants so they can build…I don’t know, something. Probably a mall, or nice houses…the usual.
I think you might have an idea where this film is going from this point, as Rappin’ is many clichés of the genre all “rapped” into one Hip-Hop extravaganza. I don’t even know where to begin with this film, but there is a lot to say for many different reasons. First of all, the movie is certainly not on par with some of the best the genre has to offer, but damn, is it a lot of fun. Some of the rappin’ is so bad and many of the people behind these verbal assaults are far from skilled at the art of rhyme. The biggest offender is certainly MVP, with his monotone voice and lack of natural flow, but it’s MVP’s lack of skill that makes the movie all the more entertaining.
The Many Faces of Hip-Hop
There are a few familiar faces that show up in Rappin’, besides MVP, of course. There’s Kadeem Hardison, and soul glow himself, Eric La Salle who make up a portion of John Hood’s crew. Also, Hood’s little brother is played by Leo O’Brien, who was in The Last Dragon, a film that gave us our most recent Monster of the Week. Along with familiar faces, the film’s director, Joel Silberg, is treading some very familiar territory with Rappin’. He also directed the before mentioned, Breakin’ as well as the sultry dance movie, Lambada (Totally should have been called, Lambada-in’). So he clearly has a certain thing he does and it would seem he is the guy to call when making a movie that is meant to exploit the latest fad in Urban culture. Though, he did direct Catch the Heat, so that makes his resume all the more versatile.
Some of the dialogue is beyond classic, with one scene where a record producer asks Hood if he’s ever rapped before, in which Hood respond’s with “No, but I got a record!” Get it?! When it comes to classic dialogue, no one is better than John Hoods arch rival, Duane (Charles Flohe). First off, he has great feathered hair and while he looks perfect to play the part of a rich, white, asshole bully, he is so unconvincing as a street thug. As for some of his choicest lines – “Don’t make me thaw you out, Ice!” When referring to La Salle’s character, who’s name is Ice. Then there’s the moment when Duane grabs Hood’s love interest by the arm kind of harshly, and Hood says “Hey, don’t be so rough on her” or something to that effect. Duane quickly responds with “Hey? Hay is for horses!” Good one, Duane, but I think you forgot about the better for cows part.
While this film is not the best of the best, it is very fun and a major reason for that is what I like to call, “random acts of Hip-Hop” that occur throughout Rappin’. The viewer is never safe from a random outbreak of rhymes and song from the characters – it can happen at anytime, any place, and anything can set it off. And you know what, even though many of the skills on display are lacking and the lyrics are weak, they certainly are very enjoyable scenes and for some reason, brought a shit eating grin to my face. I wish I could go over them all, but that would take forever, and I’m already at 763 words, so I need to tie things up soon.
I do have to mention Rappin’s end credit sequence, where each of the film’s characters, spit a lyric or two as their name goes by. This includes an old Asian dude, an old Jewish dude, a white, middle aged mother AND her daughter, and many, many more. It’s fucking gold. Then, there is the scene when the people of the neighborhood are trying to fight to stay in their homes and not be driven out. When all else fails, “Rappin’” John Hood and his Merry Men show up and use the influence of rap to convince the city council to their side, so they can stay in their hood! Again, fucking gold. And don’t even get me started on Snack Attack.
So, if you are a fan of this type of film, or Hip-Hop culture, or bad outfits and hair styles of the past, Rappin’ is a blast. It’s plot is messy and it tries to be too many things, but it does succeed at delivering some truly entertaining scenes and some funny moments. Plus, a 10 year old me makes an appearance.
Thanks for pointing this one out to me, Emily…you rock the party like no one else!