Sunday, January 19, 2014

Movies I Grew Up With: Krush Groove

The story of the love affair between this particular movie and myself really begins a couple years before it was even released. In 1983, I became enamored with a group called Run-DMC beginning with their song “Here We Go.” Over the next year and a half I learned just about every word of both their debut self-titled album and their sophomore effort, “King of Rock.” I took the title song of the second album as my personal anthem.

Late summer, or early fall of 1985, I began seeing TV ads for a movie starring my heroes called Krush Groove. Yes! Not only was Run-DMC starring, but other hip hop legends such as Kurtis Blow, The Fat Boys, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, and even Prince’s latest ‘it’ girl, Sheila E. There was also this young rapper I’d just started listening to. Perhaps you’ve heard of this guy. He calls himself LL Cool J. Even though they weren't in the commercials, I'd be remiss if I failed to mention that the Beastie Boys and New Edition also appear. Needless to say, seeing this movie the day it hit theaters was priority number one. I started putting the word in with Mom, right away. In the way fourteen year olds often tend to, I let her know I would literally keel over and die if I didn’t see this movie as soon as it came out. Repeatedly.

Lo and behold, when opening night came Mom had to work third shift. She was a corrections officer at Riiker’s Island on rotating shifts in those days. There was no way she was going to take my siblings and I, plus my best friend and his little brother to the movies before having to pull an all-nighter at one of the nation’s most notorious prisons.

Thankfully, she planned ahead.

At the time, a friend of Mom’s was having some trouble getting on her feet so she was staying with us. Mom asked her to drag us all to the theater that night so that I wouldn’t die. At least, I think that’s why. Anyhoo, we arrived at Sunrise Theater, on Sunrise Highway of course, to find a line wrapped around the building for Krush Groove. At this point, our guardian for the evening asked me what I thought was the single dumbest question in the history of mankind. She said “Wow, look at this line. You guys sure you wanna stay?”

“You’re joking, right?” At least, that’s what I was thinking. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but I’m sure it was along the lines of “Hell yeah!” Okay, maybe not. The point is we stayed. We got in to the show we were trying to get into. Shortly after the movie started, so did the rock-rap hybrid “King of Rock.” Life was good.

The actual plot of Krush Groove is loosely based on the early days of Def Jam Recordings, the company founded by Russell Simmons that put him on the path to becoming a multi-media mogul. For the uninformed, he is the real life brother of Joseph Simmons, AKA Run of Run-DMC. He was actually the main character of the movie. Curiously, but wisely, he did not play himself as all the artists did, including his business partner Rick Rubin. Russell was played by Blair Underwood. There’s sibling rivalry, loan sharks, a love triangle, and of course, plenty of hip hop involved.

There was also plenty of comic relief whenever The Fat Boys were on the screen. Their show-stopping music video plopped into the middle of the film for “All You Can Eat” is just hilarious. Actually, just about everything they did had me in stitches. They were such an effective part of the movie, their performance earned them a collective multi-picture deal. Unfortunately, they only made one more movie, the flop Disorderlies where they co-starred alongside Ralph Bellamy.

Recently, during one of those rare times when there was not a “new to us” movie lying around the house, my family and I were trying to decide on a movie to watch. The proverbial light bulb came on over my head as I thought ‘hey, my wife and daughters love movies with lots of music and my son is a rap fan so let’s watch Krush Groove!’ When I said it out loud, I got mixed reactions but they agreed to watch.

Personally, I’ve seen it probably a couple dozen times since that night in 1985. My wife has seen it quite a bit also, but hadn’t watched it in a while. Of course, it was all brand new to our young’uns. As I suspected they had a grand time watching it. Granted, part of their fun was laughing at 80s fashion, but they still enjoyed the movie. They recognized some of the songs from my playing them around the house when I get in a nostalgic mood, so that was a plus.

Looking at it with my now more critical eye, I can much more easily see its flaws. For one, letting all of these artists play themselves was clearly a ploy to capitalize on their success in the musical arena. For the most part, they’re horrible actors. There are also a few plot holes to be found. Additionally, I am a little bit of a hip hop historian and this movie takes serious liberties with the facts even though most of the people involved know them much better than I. That said it is still lively and entertaining. Helping tremendously with this is the fact that the stuff with The Fat Boys still works. I still laugh. My kids also laughed. More importantly, they laughed in the right spots.

This movie also has one of my favorite cameos of all time. One scene shows the guys sitting around the office and auditioning acts. Just as they decide they are done for the day, a young man and his two buddies push their way in the door. It’s that LL guy. He says “Box!” One of his boys turns on the boom-box and he launches into the first verse from “I Can’t Live Without My Radio,” one of his earliest hits. Then he disappears from the movie just as fast as he showed up. To this day, it’s an intense and exciting forty-five seconds or so of film. Of course, he went on to an incredibly long and successful career in rap and later parlayed that into more longevity and success as an actor. Think about this: he starred in In the House, a sitcom that ran for four seasons, almost twenty years ago and has worked steadily as an actor ever since. I’ve always been a big fan of his, but must admit I will always harbor just a bit of hate for him. It’s not really his fault, per se, and she’ll never admit this, but I suspect my wife would seriously consider leaving me for him if presented with the opportunity. Damn you, James Todd Smith. Damn you.

The true testament to the fact that this movie still works is the way my kids reacted when it was over. When I put it in the DVD player, they thought they were doing me a favor by tolerating “one of dad’s old people movies.” By the time it was over, they were humming “All You Can Eat,” and talking about their favorite parts. They asked me to explain much of the 80s slang that permeates the dialogue. The wife and I reminisced on the good ol’ days. And all of us marveled at how much muscle Mr. LL has packed on since then. However, I really got my biggest confirmation that I’d introduced them to the right movie a few months later. I was at the computer banging out a post for this blog while my girls were in the next room trying to figure out what they wanted to watch. Without me saying a word, they picked Krush Groove.


  1. Awesome to read your connection with this film. I can imagine it having a huge impact if you also had to wait to see it standing in line. It was the first time for me seeing it, but I really enjoyed the historic factor of it. Have been listening to hip hop since the beginning of the 90's, but was always interested in music that came before as well. Btw, you should check out the Magnus Opus series on as these shorts are very well made and also provide a lot of history and insight into classic hip hop songs.

    1. Thanks for stopping by! I've heard of the Complex series, but haven't checked it out, yet. I'll have to do that. Thanks for the reminder on that.