The thing about Krush Groove is that it isn’t a good film. The film is basically there to showcase the rap groups that are in the movie. There is a plot but it is very thin. Basically the plot is there to serve as something to go in-between all the musical numbers. What is really great about the film is that it a time capsule. It highlights the early days of rap by recreating the early success of some of its earliest stars.
While there were groups before Run-DMC it is very hard to argue that they weren’t the first massive rap group. Krush Groove was released in 1985 and this is one year before Run-DMC hit superstardom with Walk This Way in 1986. The film doesn’t give the trio of Run-DMC much to do. Jam Master Jay is basically silent for the entire film. DMC interjects a bit. The film gives much of the growth to Run’s character. This is because of what is happening in the plot, but it is easy to see that Run is very comfortable in front of a camera. Out of all the rappers that star in the film it is quite easy to see that Run can easily play himself and really pull it off on screen.
The film basically retells the early days of Russell Simmons starting Def Jam – except here the label is Krush Groove and instead of Russell Simmons we get Blair Underwood playing Russell Simmons…except he’s playing Russell Walker. Russell is in the movie but I guess the studio was probably more comfortable getting an actual actor. Maybe that was the plan all along. Maybe Russell realized that helping with the story, having a small role, and crafting the movie was more important than him trying to be an actor. Probably a wise move.
Rick Rubin is here playing himself. Russell and Rick are trying to get the label Krush Groove off the ground. They have a hit Run-DMC song on the radio but the problem is they don’t have the money to make the vinyl records. No records in record stores = no money to the label. Russell tries to go through conventional means to raise the money then goes to a shifty loan shark guy (played by Richard Gant – who everyone will remember as the Don King wannabe from that god-awful Rocky V. Gant was literally the only good thing about that film).
While Krush Groove is trying to get off the ground three fat high school students called the Disco Three are trying to get their rap career started. Prince Markie Dee, Kool Rock Ski, and Buff just like to fool around. It seems that Markie and Buff are serious about trying to start a rap career but Kool is very reluctant. Kool knows they have talent but he’s afraid that, as three fat guys, everyone will pretty much laugh at them.
Sheila E pops up as a potential love interest for both Russell and Run. She is introduced at a club on-stage with her band singing A Love Bizarre. You HEAR Prince and basically you are looking around the stage wondering where Prince is. But there’s no Prince. Eventually it is revealed to be some white guy “singing” Prince’s part. Can’t fool me buddy, you are not Prince. Run is into Sheila E and tries to help her launch a career. Things don’t go the way he wants to and Run is out.
Run is basically out to be famous and once he gets that first taste ain’t nobody going to stand in his way. Not his brother, not some girl, nobody. When a deal comes around that Russell turns down before talking to his artists it causes a mass exodus. No artists, no money, and the loan shark lurking around the corner.
There are MANY reasons I love this movie. I don’t even think I could name them all. I’ll write this review and they’ll just continue to come to me.
Let’s try going back to the time capsule. Now I’m sure people in the last thirty years have pointed out the comparison but I’m going to point it out again. This film captures an art form in its infancy. I think back to Bill Haley and the film Rock Around the Clock. That is a film that captured Rock and Roll in its infancy and it is a music that dominated music for 40 years. Rock and Roll is less popular then it was thanks to rap music finally becoming massive. That’s not the point. The point is both films capture a huge change and/or shift in music AS IT HAPPENED. When Love Me Tender came out in 1956 and Hard Day’s Night in 1964 it premiered both Elvis and The Beatles in their youth respectively. Having the music is one thing – but having it visually there for you to look at it quite another. What’s the plot of Hard Day’s Night? The Beatles going to play a TV show. And what do they do? Basically nothing except play music and fool around. Krush Groove is comparatively the same thing.
Unfortunately for everyone Millennials don’t have the same appreciation for history. While I appreciated Bill Haley, Elvis, and the Beatles when I was a teen for what they did for music, kids today don’t sit back and think about how Kurtis Blow or Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde were important to rap’s early days. Same with the Fat Boys who were HUGE in the 1980s. I’m sure most teens never heard of Kurtis Blow or the Fat Boys. I think that’s why having a film like this is even more important.
Kurtis Blow gets respect in this film as he should. In reality he had rap’s first gold record. He never made it “out of the 80s” and never released an album after 1988 but the man is a legend.
New Edition, LL Cool J, and the Beastie Boys all pop in. Basically pointless as they just show up to do their own music and they are gone. They don’t even perform a full song. LL Cool J’s name is featured prominently at the club Disco Fever that everyone has their performances at but he has to bust into the Krush Groove office just to spit a rhyme. It’s like they don’t know him, but they SHOULD know him if they perform at the same club and LL’s a featured act.
As for the Beasties they come in at a talent show. The audience groans. It’s actually pretty funny. The Beasties are a lot of fun but they really get their due in Run-DMC’s Tougher than Leather flick.
As for the Fat Boys they also get a small arc from performing at high school in-between classes to finally performing in public to changing their name from Disco Three to the Fat Boys…and finally success. It’s all movie magic as the events didn’t happen this way. This is all fictionalized. But it is fun to think that this is how the Fat Boys really could have started. I really think the Fat Boys are a lot of fun on-screen. I still love the All You Can Eat sequence where they hit a Sbarro’s and DEMOLISH all of the food.
FULL FORCE shows up minus Bowlegged Lou. It’s funny to me because in this film they are playing street thugs and then FIVE YEARS LATER they are playing high school students in House Party. Just humorous.
Everything works out in the end for Russell, Run-DMC, the Fat Boys, and most of the groups. There is no down note. In the end the very thin plot rectifies itself and everyone goes on to stardom. In reality it did for Run-DMC and the Fat Boys who would both release huge albums and each go on to star in their own movies.
I’ll stand by my words and say Krush Groove, as a film, is not great. But it is certainly fun. It captures a time when most people heard “rap music” and groaned. They were trying to do something new. Time has told that rap was here to stay.
And Run? Man I don’t know why people didn’t cast him in everything. Damn shame. He really shows off them acting chops.