If you understand the true origins of Hip-Hop and Rap, youll be fully aware that it was born out of decay, the decay of New York City boroughs like the South Bronx. However, the depreciation of these boroughs; the abandoned buildings, the perishing surroundings, the upturned mattresses et cetera, has been pretty rare outside of the chronicles of gold school photographers like official Cold Crush snapper Joey Kane [Joe Conzo] and Sue Kwon. Aside from the photographic testaments, one of the finest film documentaries defining true New York gang and street culture will finally be commercially available, for the 1st time since its short VHS run in1985, before the end of 2010.
Filmed during the Summer of 79, the film concentrates on the day to day lives of gang members, simple social outlaws, just hangin out. Sometimes we see them drinkin and carryin on in their safe house, at times we see them throwin bows during fights late at night, sometimes we see them bumper-hoppin in the bright sunshine of a lazy afternoon. These are the same gang members that Bambaataa allegedly took off the streets and into the parks and community centres during that period, creating the Hip-Hop artists and audience as we know it.
The gang members were just teens doing their thing on their local streets, the only way they knew how, some of them taking a violent path but still holding it down for their community. 80 Blocks highlights the menacing mentality of these gang members and balances it with the community element via footage featuring the cops that tailed them, the community leaders, the teachers they avoided, as well as the film makers themselves.
As well as being able to watch the full thing on Video Google and watchable in a bunch of seperate segments on YT, this version [judging it on the quality of the sound on the trailer alone] has been lovingly remastered and carefully reconstructed by amongst others, Bostonian Will C, the same man that gave us the Mr Magic package Dont Touch That Dial a while back. The film even in its grainy wobbly VHS form is cosmetically stunning, from the clothes being worn, to the many variations of music, from the denim jackets with the gang affiliations embroidered in the back panelling, to the embryonic elements of New York graffiti culture, not too many whole cars in this sadly, but keeps yer eyes peeled for some nutty Cliff 159 action.
As well as the 67 minute feature, there will be alot of extras, a 40 page hard-back book, the OG feature on the Skulls from a 1977 issue of Esquire and a bunch of interviews that havent seen the light of day previously either. If you dont know anything about this documentary, it’s essentially a snap-shot of the heady days during the late 70s when gangs of kids and n’er do well adolescent types that shouldve known better, were running rampant on the streets of their own neighbourhoods. Full length films like Across 110th Street and The Warriors were probably the closest re-enactment of the times transferred to the big screen, but it gets no realer than this.
A hefty dose of the dialogue from the film was used in, well, in my opinion, one of the tightest mixtapes/ compilations ever. It utilises live sets from the gold school era of park jams, discos and community centre parties like the T-Connection and The Armory – the Live Convention 77-79 compilation.
The mix is without a doubt, the best of its kind, maybe that’s because there aint too many like it, blending live jams and adding the aural crutch theyve always required. The segments of poor quality sounds from the live shows are bedded and bolstered with the underlying funk, rock, disco etc of original block party classics like Bustin Loose, Got to be Real and even Walk This Way, so that the music and blends are seemless, the punch of the original tracks are enhanced to give em some balls, and naturally, you have the flow, the innocence and the glorious banality of the young park jam MCs like Melle Mel, Kool Kyle and if memory serves me well, even a slice of Johnny Wa and Rayvon.
The mix is dipped in dialogue from a number of sources including The Warriors, but talk of seeing ‘hand grenades’ and ’12 guage shotguns on the streets’ by members of OG street gangs the Savage Skulls and the Savage Nomads, carefully chopped from 80 Blocks, really made me sit up and listen.
VARIOUS – LIVE CONVENTION 77-79
FYI. The GoldenReaal folk are from Brixton, allegedly. South London strikes again?