Back in the early ’80s, The Bronx was reeling from years of urban decay. “It literally looked like a war-torn country in some places,” recalls Grandmaster Caz, one of the founding emcees of the Cold Crush Brothers and a 2008 inductee at the Bronx Walk of Fame. “I mean, it looked like Beirut! But those were the conditions that we grew up in.”
In the midst of the chaos, Caz and a wave of young artists — rappers, DJs, break dancers and graffiti writers — were doing all they could to change the bleak landscape. Budding filmmaker Charlie Ahearn heard about their efforts, and together with graffiti artists Fab 5 Freddy and Lee Quinones, he hatched the idea to make “Wild Style” in 1983.
It broke ground as the first feature film to document hip-hop culture, and 30 years later, what began as an underground indie project has become a cult classic. On Monday, SummerStage’s “This Is Hip-Hop” series will present a free live show and screening at the East River Park amphitheater. The park is the site of the film’s climactic concert scene, so it was important for Ahearn to assemble as many of the original cast members there as he could.
“I want to show and prove that we’re all here and that the culture that ‘Wild Style’ represented is still very much in evidence,” says Ahearn. “It’s not about me or about any individual. It’s about the group — the community — that extends at this point around the world.”
Starring Quinones as Zoro, a struggling graffiti writer, with fellow artist Lady Pink as his love interest and Fab 5 Freddy as the smooth-talking Phade, the film was shot almost entirely in The Bronx, and follows a loose story line that quickly gives way to its young stars as they showcase their talents. Ahearn’s camera captures a who’s-who of hip-hop’s old school, including Busy Bee, Grandmaster Flash, Grand Wizard Theodore, Double Trouble, Rammellzee, Rock Steady Crew and the Cold Crush Brothers.
“It was kind of natural for us,” recalls Caz, who’s slated to DJ and host the SummerStage event. “We were performers, and we were performing in our own element. This wasn’t a big Hollywood production; it was basically grass- roots, so we had no idea how far it would go.”
When it premiered at a Times Square movie theater in 1983, “Wild Style” sold out for the three weeks it screened. “I wanted to create something that could play to a 14-year-old in a local movie house,” Ahearn says. “To me, that meant a narrative, and my heroes at the time were guys like Bruce Lee. So in ‘Wild Style,’ everyone in a sense was ‘acting,’ but like Bruce, they could still be seen as themselves. Everyone got their 10 minutes, and together we projected an image of the future of hip-hop.”
“Wild Style” 30th anniversary celebration is at East River Park, at the FDR Drive entrance at Cherry Street. Live show on Monday at 6 p.m.; screening at 8 p.m. Info: wildstylethemovie.com.
Article Credit: nypost.com