Charlie Ahearn’s 1983 docudrama Wild Style is the classic Hip-Hop movie. It was the first Hip-Hop film, and introduced the culture to American youth outside of New York City.
Hip-Hop broke out of The Bronx with the first rap recording, the Sugarhill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight in 1979. But outside New York City, we weren’t exposed to the combination of DJing, rapping, break dancing and graffiti writing that make up Hip-Hop culture.
I saw the movie on a double bill with punk rock movie The Decline of Western Civilization in Los Angeles in 1984. On the west coast at that time, we had never seen anything like it. I still remember “Double Trouble is in the house…” Even being a California boy, Wild Style is part of my youth. It’s something I share with my kids. How fresh to see it again. Once upon a time in New York City…
The movie tells the story of Zoro (Lee Quiñones), a Puerto Rican graffiti artist in The Bronx who is being followed by an uptown journalist. Zoro gets a break when he is hired to paint the stage for an upcoming rap concert.
The film was shot in the South Bronx and Lower East Side. It includes appearances by hip-hop legends Fab Five Freddy, Cold Crush Brothers, Rock Steady Crew, Queen Lisa Lee of Zulu Nation (Afrika Bambaataa’s crew) and Grandmaster Flash.
Lee Quiñones was one of the first 1970s New York graffiti artists to make the jump from graffiti into fine art. The most famous is Haitian – Puerto Rican artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, who now holds the auction price record for work by a Black artist or made after 1970.
“Graffiti is art and if art is a crime, please God, forgive me”
~ Lee Quiñones
Quiñones’ work is now in permanent collections at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of the City of New York.
Quiñones was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico and raised in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
Wild Style in New York City
SummerStage celebrates Wild Style’s 35th Anniversary at a screening with original cast members and special guests at the East River Park Bandshell where the film’s climactic scene was shot on Thursday, August 9, 2018 at 6 pm.
“Here’s the latest story that must be told…”