RAPPIN’ (the movie)

Written by Adam Friedman, & Robert Jay Litz
Directed by Joel Silberg

You know the phrase so bad it’s good? That’s sort of how I feel about this film. Released in 1985 by Cannon Films, the same studio that released Breakin’ (also directed by Joel Silberg) and Breakin 2: Electric Boogaloo (which this film shares a similar plot: streetwise kids teaming up to stop a greedy real estate developer), this was their cheap attempt to cash-in on the growing popularity of rap music. But obviously the filmmakers had ZERO understanding of rap music. At least with the Breakin’ films they got actual breakdancers involved to give it some authenticity. And while this film does have Ice T in it, the stars are all non-rapping actors. First, if you somehow missed this cinematic masterpiece, check out the trailer:

Mario Van Peeples stars as John Hood, also known as “Rappin’ Hood”. As the film opens he’s just gotten out of prison after serving 18 months for some kind of assault and now is returning to his old neighborhood, where he lives with his younger brother Allen (Leo O’Brien) and their grandmother (Eyde Byrde). He reunites with his old gang, alternatively known as “Wild Pack” and “The Merry Men” (as in Rappin’ Hood and his Merry Men…get it?). The Wild Pack consists of Melvin Plowden as Fats, Richie Abanes as Richie, Kadeem Hardison as Moon and Eriq La Salle as Ice. I guess you could consider this film a quasi-musical, as characters are known to break out into song as the drop of a hat, such as:

Tasia Valenza stars as Dixie, John’s former flame who is now inexplicably dating Duane (played by Charles Grant aka Charles Flohe), a former member of the Wild Pack (he says he was once John’s “Right hand man”) who now leads his own rival gang. From the moment we see him on screen Duane is a total jackhole, so it’s never clear why Dixie would be with him. Duane keeps trying to goad John into a fight, but John always backs down, insisting that he’s a changed man. Dixie works for a local record producer, who is interested in signing a rap act, and holds auditions in a local club. Ice T makes an appearance with a band performing a song called KILLERS. And the Force MD’s also show up, performing their song ITCHIN’ FOR A SCRATCH. But John comes into the club and when two drunks start fighting he runs over to break it up and raps an anti-alcohol song to them, which impresses the producer who he brings John into his studio the next day to record a new song. Dixie thinks this could be a new career for John, but he’s got more important things on his mind.

Trouble arrives when a real estate developer (played by Harry Goz) plans to evict all the poor residents in the neighborhood so he can demolish all the buildings and build expensive homes on the land. He has his men cut off the utilities to try to drive the people out, but John and his friends use tricks to get the heat turned back on. The developer hires Duane and his gang to go around terrorizing and vandalizing the neighborhood, leading up to a confrontation with the Wild Pack. And when John arrives it finally leads to a one on one fight with Duane, who of course fights dirty and pulls a knife. Eventually at a city council meeting John and The Wild Pack perform a rap song that convinces the council to deny the developer a zoning permit, and saves the neighborhood!

Oops, I guess I should have included a spoiler warning.

Anyway, all’s well that ends well, with the final credits rolling as the whole cast performs a rap song.

Silly plot, one-dimensional characters, and bad rapping. What’s not to love? And yet, for some reason, I do kinda like this. Call it nostalgia for my childhood or whatever, but it’s got a sincerity and clear good vs. evil story that I can’t help but admire, and I can laugh while watching it (even if I’m mostly laughing AT it, not with it).


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