Russell Walker (Blair Underwood) has started a new hip-hop and rap label called Krush Groove, which features a stellar list of acts that includes Kurtis Blow and Run-D.M.C. However, Walker doesnt have sufficient money to keep up the label, especially after Run-D.M.C. scores a big single. As he struggles to fund the label, more and more rap groups, like the Beastie Boys and LL Cool J, emerge in the New York City hip-hop scene. The film is based on the beginning of Def Jam Records.
Krush Groove is a 1985 Warner Bros. film that was written by Ralph Farquhar and directed by Michael Schultz (who also produced the movie, along with George Jackson and Doug McHenry). This film is based on the early days of Def Jam Recordings and up-and-coming record producer Russell Simmons (renamed Russell Walker in the film), portrayed by Blair Underwood in his feature film debut. Russell Simmons was the films co-producer and story consultant; he also had a cameo in the film as a club owner named Crocket.
Russell Walker is a young, successful manager of rap performers, handling acts for the Krush Groove label, including Run-DMC and The Fat Boys. When Run-D.M.C. has a hit record and Russell needs more money to press more copies, he borrows it from a street hustler and soon regrets his decision.
In the movie, Russell Walker has signed all of the hottest acts to his Krush Groove record label, including Run-D.M.C., Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde (Alonzo Brown), and Kurtis Blow. Rick Rubin produces their records. When Run-D.M.C. has a hit record and Russell doesnt have the money to press records, he borrows money from a street hustler. At the same time, Russell and his brother Run are both competing for the heart of R&B singer-percussionist Sheila E. Also appearing in the film are LL Cool J, the Beastie Boys, New Edition, the Fat Boys and some of their songs, as well as others from the likes of Chaka Khan, Debbie Harry, and the Gap Band. Members of the R&B group Full Force also make a cameo in the film as bodyguards.
The following appeared as themselves, except where noted:Blair Underwood (as Russell Walker)
The Fat Boys
LL Cool J
Russell Simmons (as Crocket)
Richard Gant (as Jay B.)
Lisa Gay Hamilton (as Iesha)
Vicky Ruane (as Girl Friday)
Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde (Andre Harrell and Alonzo Brown)
Brian "B-Fine" and Paul Anthony George of Full Force (as Jay B.s bodyguards)
Victor Iglesias appeared as an un accredited contestant in the film. Chris Rock appeared uncredited as a man standing next to phone during the fight in the club. Kara Vallow appeared uncredited as a Hip Hop Dancer. Coati Mundi was seen as a record shop owner.
Krush Groove is based on the inception of the Def Jam Recordings label and the hardships that artists Run-D.M.C. and Russell Simmons faced to become successful. Simmons began his career trying to get his company Rush Management up and running. However, in the movie, he is shown as already being teamed up with producer Rick Rubin to form Def Jam, referred to as Krush Groove Records in the film. In reality, the label was started by Rubin in 1984 in his college dorm at New York University. The movie starts off with Run-D.M.C. and Kurtis Blow, known as the King of Rap, as two of the first artists to sign with the label, with both Blow and Run-D.M.C. as artists, songwriters, and record producers.
The beginning of the movie opens with Run-D.M.C. in the studio performing "King of Rock" for Simmons, Rubin, and Blow. However, the group was not always involved in the Def Jam scene as shown in the movie, and Rubin was not the producer of "King of Rock." Run and DMC had to persuade both Simmons and their original producer and bass player, Larry Smith, to give them a chance to record a demo. With the lyrics that Smith had once bought off of Run for $100, the groups first demo, "Its Like That," was created. In the movie, the group also performs its track â€œMy Adidasâ€� from the album Raising Hell, which was created later after the success of the label.
Larry Smith was the producer of Run-D.M.C.s first two albums, despite them being credited to Rick Rubin, who produced the groups third album, Raising Hell. However, in the movie, Larry Smiths role as producer is not portrayed at all.
Later on, the team was joined by its first popular teen sensation, LL Cool J, who plays a very small role in the movie at the age of 17. Playing himself, LL Cool J is discovered through his piece "I Canâ€™t Live without My Radio," which is performed at an audition in front of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Jam Master Jay, DMC and Rubin in The latter apartment. In reality, LL Cool J was discovered in Rubins apartment but not through an audition. While going through a box of demos, Beastie Boy Ad-Rock stumbled across LLs demo tape. With this, he produced a beat and co-wrote "I Need a Beat" with LL and Rubin, which launched both of their careers, which allowed the Def Jam label to take off. The song "I Cant Live without My Radio" was made for the movie as a way for LL Cool J to star in it. However, this song was also one of the hit songs on his debut album Radio.
Other artists that were a part of the Rush Management roster, but did not have a major role in the film, include the Beastie Boys, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, and Whodini. Characters that were not part of Rush Management but greatly contributed to the new scene were the Fat Boys, Sheila E, and New Edition.
The Fat Boys were the first group to showcase a human beat box while rhyming. In the movie, the group originally referred to itself as the Disco Three. It was not until a scene in an Italian buffet, where the three boys took the phrase all you can eat to the next level by eating everything. When the group realized that they were really fat, they decided to give themselves the name Fat Boys. In reality, the name Fat Boys was suggested by the groups manager when he received a $350 hotel bill for extra breakfast ordered by the group on their European tour. As portrayed in the movie, the group was discovered through the Coca-Cola and Tin Pan Apple hip-hop contest at Radio City Music Hall, where the trio won the grand prizeâ€”a recording contractâ€”but had entered the contest to win the second-place prize, a stereo set. The group perform their songs "Dont You Dog Me," "All You Can Eat," "Fat Boys," and "Pump it Up."
Throughout the movie, Sheila E. and Russell Simmons are romantically involved, which discouraged Run, who was always interested in her. In reality, Run did not like the concept of being disloyal to his brother, and the romance between and Sheila was made up. Sheila E. made it into the film simply because they wanted a love interest, like in most films, and she recorded for Warner Bros. Records, the sister company of the films distributor. In the movie. Sheila plays herself, a drummer and percussionist, in which she performs her songs "Holly Rock" and "A Love Bizarre". In addition, all of the money issues that Russell Simmons faced in funding the label by borrowing from loan sharks and friends is also false.
The movie was not made the way the artists desired, but with all the talent of that time and most of the members of the Def Jam and Rush Management family. The purpose of the movie, according to Russell Simmons, was to showcase the array of young talent emerging from New Yorks black music scene and depict its vibrancy.
Krush Groove was filmed in the Bronx, New York (including at least one scene in the Marble Hill projects). Among the locations where the movie was shot was the famous Disco Fever, a popular club during the embryonic stages of hip hop that, by the time of the film, had fallen on some hard times. Disco Fever owner Sal Abbatiello expected the movie not only to turn the spotlight on the burgeoning hip-hop movement but also to "bring attention [back] to the club" and so agreed to have scenes shot there. Unfortunately, the attention surrounding the filming brought the scrutiny of the local authorities, who shut the club down for good on the last day of shooting for not having all the proper licenses and permits. There was also a scene shot in Shepard Hall of the historic City College of New York.
During an interview to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the film, Russell Simmons reflected on the legacy of Krush Groove and its position in hip-hop culture history. The film, Simmons said, is still recognizable not only for having brought together so many Def Jam stars at the time, but for also introducing new talent, such as LL Cool J. Cool J was so persistent during filming, showing up to shooting locations and performing freestyles, that producers ended up putting him in the final cut. This backdoor auditioning process became a staple of the production. â€œOther cats werenâ€™t so lucky,â€� Simmons said. â€œWe had this one cat who tried to be like LL, and we just couldnâ€™t understand what his gig was. Dude was a total clown. He was wearing a clock around his neck way before Flav. Neon jumpsuits, everything. Of course our whole thing was black leather and adidas. That was the thing in rap at that time. He came in speaking some sort of pidgin English and just kept groping our female set workers. We called him â€˜Handsâ€™ at first cause we didnâ€™t know what else to call him.â€� Simmons went out to explain that, after some time, they crew realized â€˜Handsâ€™ was actually speaking siSwati, a sister tongue to siZulu. â€œThatâ€™s when we called in Afrika Bambaataa, you know, cause this is â€™84, right. The Zulu Nation was hot at that time, working that African infusion into everything, breakbeats, graffiti, peace in communities. We thought Afrika could translate. Nah, son. Ends up that dude doesnâ€™t know a word of zulu.â€� As former crew members tells it, the rapper referred to himself as â€˜Lishisa Lizambaneâ€™, siSwati for â€˜Hot Potatoâ€™. Run of Run-DMC recalls â€œWe didnâ€™t know how he got to the Bronx, but apparently cat was from Africa. Like real Africa. As in, middle-of-nowhere Swaziland Africa.â€� â€˜Hot Potatoâ€™ was a self-dubbed name, due to his penchant for passing himself around amongst ladies, not unlike the action of a real hot potato. As for his freestyles, Simmons claims he â€œhad no idea what was happening, cause it was all jumbled up siSwati and English. He wouldnâ€™t perform without a stick in his hand, occasionally made bird whistles, and randomly did high leg kicks for no reason. I remember thinking he was rappinâ€™ about police, police, police. Come to find out, he just kept using this word â€˜liphalishiâ€™ which is some sort of a staple meal where he comes from. I kept thinking this clown was hard, but apparently he just kept rapping about food.â€� Due to the absurd nature of this unknown, producers couldnâ€™t justify including one his performances in the final cut, out of fear of alienating their core audience. â€œWe actually tried to film him in a scene once,â€� remembers Kurtis Blow, â€œbut he kept putting his mug all up on Sheila E.â€� After filming, â€˜Hot Potatoâ€™ was never heard from again, although speculation is that he returned to native Swaziland. â€œThats unfortunate,â€� says Simmons, â€œcause once Public Enemy came out we realized just how ahead of the game â€˜Handsâ€™... excuse me... â€˜Hot Potatoâ€™ really was.â€�
The movie was released on DVD in 2003. Among the special extras included on the DVD are commentary from Underwood, Schultz, and The Source magazine Senior Editor Brett Johnson, a theatrical trailer for the movie, and the Krush Groove All-Stars video "Krush Groovin."
The movie had a positive reception.
Music from the Original Motion Picture Krush Groove (also called just Krush Groove Soundtrack) is a soundtrack album by various urban-oriented artists, which was released on Warner Bros. Records in 1985. The album peaked at #79 on the Pop chart and #14 on the R&B chart. The Krush Groove soundtrack was released on Warner Bros. Records in 1985 and featured songs from the movie. Only 1,000 copies of the album were ever pressed on compact disc. The film was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Original Song for the song All You Can Eat.
Other songs appeared in the film but were not on the album soundtrack:Autumn - "Kold Krush"
Run-D.M.C. - "King of Rock," "Its Like That", "Can You Rock it Like This," "Youre Blind"
Fat Boys - "Dont You Dog Me," "Fat Boys," "Pump it Up (Lets Get Funky)"
Sheila E. - "A Love Bizarre"
UTFO - "Pick up the Pace" (released as the b-side of "All You Can Eat" on Warner Bros. Records 28829)
Nayobe - "Please Dont Go"
New Edition - "My Secret"
Chad Elliot - "I Want You to be My Girl"