'Krush Groove' Brought Hip-Hop to Hollywood

Submitted by notoriousclassics on Mon, 10/25/2021 - 16:37
'Krush Groove' director Michael Schultz (center rear) with The Fat Boys

As rap became an increasing force in the culture at large, it was only a matter of time before it made its way into the movies. One of the first big, bold movies to center hip-hop was Krush Groove, a stranger-than-fact-or-fiction take on the ins and outs of a rap-ready record label in New York.

Of course, there really is no Krush Groove Records, but it's not hard to notice the parallels to one of the city's realest labels in the '80s and beyond: Def Jam Recordings. Blair Underwood's starring role as Russell Walker was loosely based on Russell Simmons, Def Jam's co-founder, and several of the label's artists and associates make appearances in the film, including Rick Rubin (the label's other co-founder and house producer); Run-DMC, featuring Russell's brother Joseph "Run" Simmons (the Queens hitmakers were represented by Russell's Rush Management), the Beastie Boys and an up-and-coming teen rapper named LL Cool J.

What gives the movie its novelty is the performances from others that had little to do with Simmons' work - or indeed, hip-hop in general. The Fat Boys, New Edition and Chaka Khan all made appearances, as did singer, percussionist and Prince associate Sheila E., who played Underwood's love interest in the film. (Prince also wrote "Holly Rock" for Sheila to sing on the album's soundtrack.)

When released in the fall of '85, Krush Groove was a modest box-office success, but took on a weird life as it opened in more theaters; reports of fights outside packed movie houses made the pages of New York's major newspapers. The film, thus, sparked another unfortunate trend in hip-hop: the tendency of old, out-of-touch folks to blame it for upticks in violence.