Style Wars

This post is in the theme “Constructing an identity through media”. Read the first.

September 24, Flying from LGA to ORD: The scene is 1982 New York City, and this super-sincere film crew is out by the subway tracks shooting shot after shot of amazingly painted trains on 16mm film. That film becomes Style Wars and it is the most awesome portrait of early graffiti, breaking, and rapping you’ve ever seen. Oh sure, you might have seen Beat Street or Wild Style (or, forgivably, Crush Groove), but this, my friend, this is the source text.

They’re all there: From Seen to Skeme. Crazy Legs and the Rock Steady Crew. White kids, black kids, Latino kids— it’s a real all-city movement. And the cops are there too (including the guy who states flatly: “Is it art? I don’t know, I’m not an art critic. But I can sure as hell tell you, that’s a crime.”) The great soundbite that begins the Black Star song “Respiration” is here in all its filmed glory: a super young and skinny Skeme talking about bombing a train. And the art on that train is amazing. What geniuses, these kids!

It’s a lot of fun to re-watch this movie. There’s just so much great stuff here. This was the first time I’d watched Style Wars as a New York resident and the part that newly resonated with me was the brief series of soundbites from New Yorkers complaining about the graffiti in the trains. And frankly, I agree. It looks disgusting in there! It’s easy to imagine not ever understanding this movement as a New Yorker— when would you ever see whole cars if you lived in Manhattan? All you’d really see would be tags upon tags upon tags in the hot metal tube you had to cram into on your way to work.

Dig into the hip hop creation story with a little Style Wars. Available from your friendly neighborhood Internet superstore.

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