DIRECTOR: Michael Schultz
PRODUCER: Michael Schultz and Doug McHenry
WRITER: Ralph Farquhar
COMPANY: Warner Bros
The film follows the semi auto-biographical story of Russell Simmons, called Russell Walker (portrayed by Blair Underwood in his screen debut) in the film. Krush Groove mirrors the real life Def Jam label in its early days. It focuses on Run DMC moving into big time. The Fat Boys have their own autobiographical subplot. Kurtis Blow also figures in the plot.
In early 1984, Menahem Golan, the man behind Breakin’ and Breakin’ 2, decided to make his next movie about rap music. It was going to be called Rappin’. He went searching for Russell Simmons who at the time controlled nearly twenty groups.
The previous year Russell had already turned down Harry Belafonte who went on to make Beat Street.
Figuring that rap was a dying fad, Golan needed to get his film out right away. Russell never saw eye to eye with him (big surprise) and thus the film never got the artists it needed.
When the Fresh Fest Tour came through Long Beach that year the two producers, Schultz and McHenry, got interested in the talents of Run DMC. Russell was impressed by Schultz’s history as the director of Cooley High, Car Wash, and Which Way is Up.
The original idea was a concert documentary of the Fresh Fest, but Russell convinced them to do a feature instead.
The working title was Rap Attack and Russell described that the first draft was “as much about a white girl trying to break into the music business as it was about the New York rap scene.” Russell’s original concept was to base the story on the real life of June Bug (a Disco Fever DJ who was killed- Run DMC’s first album is dedicated to him). After the rewrites it eventually came to the story we know today.
Sheila E. made it into the film simply because they wanted a love interest and she recorded for Warner Bros. (who was distributing the film). You’d think they could have at least found a real female rapper, but that’s Hollywood. Her rap segments got plenty of booing in the New York cinemas.
The role of Russell played by twenty one year old Blair Underwood was not exactly a perfect match for the real life Russell. He wanted Fab 5 Freddy Brathwaite for the role, but the producers did not agree.
Rick Rubin, Russell’s real partner in Def Jam, pretty much plays himself in the film.
They fought over the language a lot as well. The cast spent a load of time translating the script into slang. The director, Schultz remembers, “If it was up to Russell, he’d have someone saying ‘motherf&*#er’ every twenty seconds.”
All the plot about Russell in money trouble is bogus. That wasn’t the case. Jam Master Jay wasn’t happy that Sheila got to slap Run. And Run himself wasn’t happy that he had to be disloyal to his brother.
So basically the cast didn’t like the film, the critics felt rap was much more innovative then the film portrayed, but the public enjoyed it. It grossed $3 million (recouping it’s entire budget) in the first weekend, $1 million of that in New York alone. It was the number one movie at the box office that first weekend.
The soundtrack was an even bigger smash despite not having a single new song from Run DMC.
PERFORMANCES/COMMENTS IN FILM:
- Run DMC opens the film performing “King of Rock” in the studio
- The group works at a car wash with Jay mixing records outside and dancers doing head spins on the rooftops of cars.
- Check out the scratched scene transitions.
- The Fat Boys (still calling themselves The Disco 3) perform “Don’t U Dog Me” in the school stairway.
- DJ Run and Russell Simmons real dad Daniel plays their preacher father in the film.
- Many performances were taped at the legendary Disco Fever and the Danceteria.
- At the Fever performance of Sheila, check the backdrop which features rappers names on it including “LL Kool J”
- Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde are part of the crew, but never perform.
- Check this rap from Run DMC when they meet Sheila
See I met this girl the other day/
And this is what she had to say/
She said she didn’t hip rap/
She did not know/
About the devastating duo/
I’m Darryl, this is Joe
- Check out this rhyme by Rick and Blair Underwood when they are applying for a business loan.
An insurmountable beat subject of discussion/
We can sell records with the aid of percussion/
There’s no category for this story/
We can make lots of money in any category
- Here’s one from Run when Sheila is rehearsing (and after he orders a bunch of Adidas over the phone). DMC has his rhyme book in his hand. Who wouldn’t want a peek at that?
You see I do not sing, but I’ll make a song/
You love your whole life and I hope you live long/
On The Gong Show I won’t get gonged/
It’s Run DMC, not Cheech and Chong
- UTFO’s “Pick up the Pace” is playing as Russell goes to visit Jay B.
- The real Russell Simmons plays theater owner for one of the big shows.
- Don’t miss LL Cool J pushing speakers around backstage of the show.
- If you want to see exactly why Run DMC is considered killers of the old school sound, just compare their performance of “It’s Like That” with Kurtis Blow’s “If I Ruled the World.” Kurtis has two deejays and about eight dancers. He changes outfits including a tuxedo. He puts on a much more choreographed show that includes outsiders. Run DMC come out with one light shining down on Jay and go into their classic routine. Run won’t come out (although in this case they act like it is because he is pissed at Russell) so DMC and Jay get the crowd to scream “Run” while Jay cuts “Run”…”Run”…”R-R-Run” over and over. Finally, Run comes out and announces, “We had a whole lotta superstars on this stage tonight, but I want you to know one thing, this is my motherf*#&in’ house.” But their opening to “It’s Like That” is still in my opinion the defining moment in hip hop. Rewatching tonight I still got chills. Fifteen years later, and I still wish I was there.
- At the time the film came out, a one minute scene that was put in as a cameo ended up stealing the thunder for most who saw it. Jay, DMC, Dr. Jeckyll, Mr. Hyde, and Rick Rubin are watching auditions for new Krush Groove artists. They say “No more auditions,” but a trio of teenagers walk in. One wearing a kangol. Jay says, “I said no more auditions.” The kangol kid turns to his partner at says, “Box!” The guy turns on the box and the world got its introduction to LL Cool J through his first verse of “I Can’t Live Without My Radio.”
- Although not rappers, New Edition performs “My Secret” with all original members.
- Although not the immediate hit LL was, The Beastie Boys appeared in the film performing “She’s On It.”
- The Fat Boys perform “Pump it Up.”
- One of the most overlooked Run DMC songs, “Can You Rock it Like This” is performed in the studio.
- Check out Donnie Simpson of BET fame as the talent contest MC.
- Full Force members appear as butt kickers for a rival label.
- The closing performance of “Krush Groovin” by The Fat Boys, Run DMC, Sheila E. and Kurtis Blow is very cool. All deliver great verses (except for Sheila, but what did you expect).
Overall this is great film if you just want to see these guys. While it pales in historical significance to Wild Style, it is still worth it just to get a look at these guys in the early days.
The first draft of Krush Groove had in fact reflected the true story of the rise of rap as insisted by Russell and the many talented acts that were involved in the movie. I spent a great deal of time interviewing all of the key personalities to get the story correct. Russell, however, after reading the draft had second thoughts. He correctly surmised that the general public might not be receptive to such a gritty story. He requested a fictionalized storyline that would soften the impact. His request coupled with Charlie Stetler (the Fat Boys’ manager) not wanting it to appear that The Fat Boys were being managed by Russell resulted in the eventual story and structure. You might notice that the Russell character is never in a scene with The Fat Boys until the final number.
Submitted by Ralph Farquhar (the writer of Krush Groove)
This was always my favorite early hip hop film growing up. I had the movie poster up in my room, although living in St. Louis, MO, I have no clue how I was able to get my hands on it. Just seeing Run DMC, the Fat Boys, Kurtis Blow, and LL Cool J in the same film pretty much was all I could ask for. -JohnG
Check out the Original Krush Groove Trailer