I suppose you can find out a lot about a person by looking at what they have on their iPod. If you were to look at mine, you’d probably notice a severe lack of rap music. There’s a few tracks here and there, but I really can’t say that I’ve spend a lot of time trying to develop a taste for that sort of music. It’s so different today than it was in my youth…in the 80’s. Today’s film takes us into the world of rap as it was just hitting its stride. It’s a kinda-sorta look at the beginnings of Russell Simmons’ Def Jam Records, with a virtual who’s who of 80’s hip hop artists…1985’s “Krush Groove.”
The film centers on a young record producer named Russell Walker (Blair Underwood). The end credits of the film somewhat awkwardly make sure to tell us that the Russell Walker character is based on Russell Simmons. Uh…ego check on aisle 4! Anyhow, Russell is experiencing some degree of success with his producing partner Rick (played by the actual Rick Rubin) and the top notch rap acts they’re recording…including Kurtis Blow, Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde, and, of course, Run-DMC (all playing themselves). Run, also happens to be Russell’s brother.
Now, although Russell and Rick have album orders coming out of their ears, their Krush Groove label is still a bit short on cash. Russell’s appeals for financial help from his minister father (Daniel Simmons) are not producing results. With other record companies anxious to steal away Russell’s acts, he needs to find an answer. This involves a loan from a somewhat shady businessman.
Meanwhile, a new act comes on the scene, the lovely Sheila E. Her sound is quite different from Russell’s other acts (Prince’s ears are tingling right now), even so, Run takes an immediate interest in her. This causes some sibling friction when Run lets Sheila and her band take his slot in a concert without consenting with his brother. Run also seems to have the hots for Sheila, though she clearly has eyes for Russell. Eventually, this leads to Run being all too anxious to lead the exodus from Russell’s label and start recording for a rival with a deeper wallet.
While all this is going on, we also follow the progress of three portly wannabe rappers. Yep campers, it’s The Fat Boys. They are out there trying everything they can to make it big, both in music and with their waistlines. One of the highlights of the film is when the boys perform their song “All You Can Eat” while decimating a Sbarro buffet. Various other music acts show up throughout the proceedings, including brief appearances by New Edition, The Beastie Boys and a pre-buff LL Cool J.
The story for “Krush Groove” is wafer thin, but that’s to be expected. The goal here was to show a bunch of up-and-coming music acts doing what they do best…and we definitely get that. As I said before, I’m far from being a rap music fan, but the music scenes in this film were really fantastic. The rap music from this era was fun, it was original, and it had a little something called talent thrown into the mix! All the artists involved have their own scene stealing moments. Musically, though, Sheila E. is the big winner, bringing a mind-boggling amount of energy and skill to her performances.
Now then, when it comes to acting…uh, yeah, let’s just say none of these folks are going to be sitting down with James Lipton anytime soon. Or should I say “Chillin’ with Lipton?” Run may be a fantastic rapper, but as far as acting goes, he tries way too hard to be a tough guy…coming across as somewhat of a jerk through much of film. As for Sheila E…talented, check, gorgeous, check, acting…let’s just say a bit stilted. Didn’t matter, though, I was on board with this film. I never expected these musicians to be great actors anyway. Though The Fat Boys do display some comedic skills. It’s a bit more understandable after seeing this why they headlined their own comedy, “Disorderlies,” a bit later on. Though that film didn’t turn out so well.
In the end, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed “Krush Groove.” It does have kind of a throw-away story, but it really doesn’t aspire to be much more than a showcase for some great music. Yes, even this non-rap fan admits that this is some great music. Guess I need to update my iPod playlists.