Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Okay… so I saw this movie the other day called ‘Catch the Heat’ made way back in ’87 and it was easily one of the worst action flicks ever made. What I learned about that movie is that it was directed by one Joel Silberg, who also directed this movie ‘Rappin’, which kind of explains why ‘Catch the Heat’ was so gawdawful. I made the comment in my review of ‘Catch the Heat’ in reference to this film that ‘Rappin’ was to hip-hop what syphilis was to sex. That was before I revisited ‘Rappin’ the other day not having seen the movie in over twenty five years. Now after watching ‘Rappin’ again I would like to take this moment to formally apologize to syphilis.

John ‘Rappin’ Hood has just gotten released from the joint. Rappin’ Hood has the rather annoying tendency to rap everything, even though he’s not very good at it. I hope like hell while Hood was in the joint he wasn’t spitting rhymes in there like the ones we heard him spit while he was on the street because if he did… let’s just say that Rappin Hood would’ve been spending the majority of his time in the joint bent over, face down with his head buried in a pillow. Not so much to sodomize him but more so to keep him from rhyming.

Hood has found that the old neighborhood is up against it. A couple of evil land developers, as if there are any other kind of land developers, are trying to force the good people out of their slum so they can build some skyscrapers, his baby brother Allan (Leo O’Brien) has become a little thug, his former lieutenant Duane (Charles Flohe) has become an insufferable asshole, constantly begging Hood to punch him in the face, and Duane has also snatched up Hood’s old girlfriend Dixie (Tasia Valenza). Still Hood has the loyalty of his crew which includes, among others, Ice as played by Eriq La Salle and Moon as ably performed by Kadeem Hardison, as this crew starts stealing from people and giving it back to the poor while rapping it up all the way. Such classics as the food rhyme ‘Snack Attack’ or Rappin Hood’s freestyle on the various colors in the rainbow is almost inspirational.

There’s other stuff that happens in this movie, possibly one of the ten worst movies ever made, but it’s all about John ‘Rappin’ Hood bustin’ rhymes. Admittedly in 2010 with 2011 just around the corner, modern hip-hop is pretty much lost on me. I don’t

listen to it and I don’t quite get it but then this more of a generational thing than anything else. However back in 1985 at the age of eighteen or so, hip-hop was a pretty damned important element of my musical life. Even more so for my cousin who I saw this movie with because she was a hip-hop snob. She went to school in New York, talked with a Brooklyn accent (even though she’s from St. Louis) and worshipped at the alter of Rakim and KRS-1 and probably would’ve birthed EPMD’s children if they had asked nice. We used to have these arguments over which was a better movie, her being a ‘Beat Street’ girl and me being a ‘Krush Groove’ guy. Then we saw this movie which united us is disdain. While it’s true that ‘Rappin’ was horrible… watching her watch ‘Rappin’ was priceless. After Rappin’ Hood flowed with his ‘Lady Alcohol is whoopin’ yo behind’ ditty I think she fainted and for me the movie was essentially over. Seriously, even though I know I didn’t leave the theater and I know I saw it through to the end I don’t remember anything after Lady Alcohol.

But two decades and change later I have a new appreciation for ‘Rappin’. Yes, it is still terrible, worse than even I remembered it to be, but there was some really good music in this movie not involving Mario Van Peebles. Force MD’s ‘Itchin’ for a Scratch’, Ice-T and ‘Killas’, those little kids singing that silly little song and that sweet little love ballad were all decent songs. And I’m not even blaming Mario because even though he had no business being in the role in the first place, it’s not like a young actor starting out was going to turn it down, right? But then when you have an urban street movie produced by cats named Golan and Globus, written by cats named Friedman and Litz and directed by a cat named Silberg… this is what you get. You get a masculinity challenged ‘Beat It’ dance off sequence, you get the worst story ever told, you get a hardcore thug with a Superman forehead curl wearing jeans waaaaay to tight, you get a fourteen year old boy who leaps into his brothers arms even though they are like the same size and you get really bad hip-hop. In one scene Rappin’ Hood proclaims ‘this is called Rap!’ Seriously? Is that what it’s called? I don’t think so Rappin’ Hood, I don’t think so.

The good thing is that most of the principles have survived this movie and have thrived. Mario is an accomplished film director, ‘E.R’ royalties will keep Eriq La Salle in silk pajamas for the rest of his days, Ice-T is a hall of fame legend, Tasia Valenza is still active lending her voice to numerous projects and Kadeem couldn’t stay busier if he tried. Good for them. One day I’m going to get these people together for a round table discussion and we are going to talk ‘Rappin’ and what it was like to make this movie. In 1985 Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus tried to kill hip-hop. It was touch and go for a while there, but somehow hip-hop survived.

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