Wild Style and Style Wars

If you’ve never seen this movie and you watch it for the first time, you’re bound to experience some deja vu action. Little bells will be going off in your head. Y’see, the dialogue from this film has been sampled by high profile artists like Cypress Hill, Nasty Nas ("…Stop fuckin’ around and be a man…") and The Beastie Boys ("…I’d paint 3 of those murals for some of that ass…"), so every few minutes there’s a line that will click in your head as familiar. Watching aerosol kingpin LEE TF5 say, "shut the fuck up Chico, man…" has a different feel to it these days…

That aside this is definitely a movie to check out if you’ve not already seen it. Part documentary, part drama (the dialogue is scripted), Wild Style is a pretty interesting look at the zero state of a sub-culture that has gone on to, in one of it’s elements at least, take over the pop landscape. Also, since rap, the element in question, has so far outdistanced it’s original triumvirate partners (graffiti and breakdancing) in terms of media attention, Wild Style serves as a healthy reminder of what the idea used to be.

As a film while it’s not the most polished production, the raw energy floating around the scene captured makes up for any of it’s shortcomings. Moving pretty quickly through a pretty standard Little Rascals style plot (‘let’s put on a show!’), the film touches on and highlights a slew of folks that helped shape the foundations of the culture and in doing so presents a pretty entertaining 90 or so minutes.

Check it out if you haven’t seen it. On video from the crazy folks at Rhino.

Style Wars:(1983)

Visit http://www.stylewars.com for more information.

This is the writers quote machine. Like hockey players quote Slapshot, writers can quote this legendary PBS documentary. Covering all elements of the art form at the height of it’s first really mature stage, this film, features a vivid portrait of some of this truly "outsider" movement’s most influential early players. Interviews with kings like SEEN, KASE 2, DONDI all provide insight into the motivations that drove people out, late at night and into the yards to paint on the sides of subway cars. It also adds some insight into their ideas on style, what the movement is really about and provides a welcome look at the living personalities behind the legendary names.

A collaboration between film director Tony Silver and sculptor turned graffiti chronicler Henry Chalfant, this film presents a priceless look at the movement during one of it’s most important stages and tells the tale skillfully, deftly weaving in the various elements that made up truly separate pockets within the culture. No understanding of graf can be complete without a look at this record of the state of the art in the early 80s.

Highly recommended for anyone solely on its merits as a documentary. For anyone interested in the culture it’s required viewing.

These reviews originally appeared in Boston's Weekly Dig (now digBoston) in April 2000.