A slightly dated but nonetheless fascinating snap shot of musical history, Beat Street
is an urban musical detailing the roots of hip-hop. Set in early 1980s New York, the film focuses on the lives of a small group of young people setting their experiences against the larger backdrop of the city's burgeoning music scene. The story of up and coming DJ Kenny and his relationship with jazz musician Tracy may only be a device, but it's surprisingly effective, as is the ultimately tragic tale of graffiti artist Remo. The movie's real raison d'être
, however, is to showcase the sounds of the street and thus is full of some of hip-hop's most influential names--Melle Mel, Doug E Fresh, Kool Moe Dee, The Rocksteady Crew, Jazzy Jeff and Arthur Baker--and while the combination of electro and rapping may sound a little crude to modern ears, there can be no doubt that Beat Street
is the sight and sound of history being made.
On the DVD: Beat Street on disc comes with pretty basic picture quality, but the soundtrack has benefited greatly from the digital remastering. The extras are limited to a collection of stills from the film and an amusing guide to break beats, which seems like a wasted opportunity. Given the nature of the movie, it's something of a shame that this disc doesn't go deeper into the subject matter. For a far more detailed examination of how the music of Kraftwerk blended with the sounds of American city streets, go to Volume 3 of the excellent BBC series Dancing in the Street. --Phil Udell
Classic 1980s movie about Bronx street culture. Focusing on breakdancing, hip-hop and graffiti artists, the story follows the day-to-day life of the Beat Street crew and concerns the staging of a big breakdancing show. Features appearances from Afrika Bambata, Grandmaster Melle Mel, the Rock Steady Crew and the New York City Breakers.