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Oh my god !!!!!!! when i saw this dvd i just thought i have got to review it, because not only as someone who loves hip hop, but also someone who loves cultures and societies especially ones that have made something beautiful from adversity i absolutley LOVE this film, and i think any of you out there would fall in love with this film too if you enjoy watching learning about interesting young adversity driven movements, (such as the afro reggae movement in brazil to aid the youth in getting away from the favela slums in 'favela rising') in this case it is hip hop.
Displaying mainly two elements of hip hop within this doc, and they are graffiti and breakdancing, though mainly focusing on graffiti. Now you may think ahhhh graffiti they stupid crap that the urban (and now alot of suburban) call art, the stuff that is scattered across the wall with marker pens that seems un-ledgible, well im here to tell you NO that is probably the impression you picked up from alot of UK so called graffiti that is performed by young delinquent teens with nothing else to do, THIS DOC is all about the golden age of hip hop and that not only meant rap that meant graffiti breakdancing dj'ing everything, this was the time when hip hop was at its peak of creativity with people constantly pushing the boundaries of art in any shape or form. This is real art that you will see in this doc, the only way i can think to describe the uniqueness and rebeblious nature of this colourful movement is like a 'rose growing from concrete', as deep in the heart of New York city in the projects and urban train yards, youth who were fed up with being treated as a cut below everyone else were not going to just do as their parents did and state 'thats just the way it is', so they rebelled.
And thats where this fantastic story of 'style wars' comes in, it begins with dark music, with a NY city train worker asking for a train to be brought out from the yard ready for its days work, in the early darkness of winter, the train continues along the tracks though we are only able to see the slight silouhette as it is still very early morning, then suddenly the train begins to pass lights that are rooted on the side of the tracks for every 20 meters or so, the music picks up and changes style quickly into something exuberant loud and happy as the lights highlight wild enormous pieces of graffiti on the sides o the trains that because of all that is going on and the orginiality of the piece (piece = name given to any single piece of spray can art graffiti).
You wil be amazed furthermore when a train is shown passing in the subway, the train is littered with vibrant graffiti all over the place and it makes you think about what one of the writers (short name for a graffiti writer) says later on in the doc, when he states 'could you imagine if everyone was just able to write what they want anywhere and express themseleves' because thats how these guys see it, if someone is not as good as them they might recognise this but they won't make sly or horrible remarks because they know, hey this person is expressing their feelings as am i and they deserve as much chance as me to get their point across to society.
That last point moves me on to one of the reasons these guys do what they do, they cleverly recognised (before taking graffiti to the new york subway trains) that alot of the trains come out from the subway and go over ground all through the city over very public places (you will notice these trains travellng over basketball courts and residential areas as soon as the doc begins basically) and this gives the opportunity for opnions of a various array of subjects to be expressed, and this was especially important for the inner city kids of the early 80's (mostly black and latino kids, but dont get me wrong there are a fair share of very good white writers in this doc) as they especially believed (not wrongfully so) that they were getting the hard shoulder of society.
A resfreshing thing about this doc is it gives both sides of the arguement, unlike many documenatries that just take sides and show clear bias towards that chosen side. Though this doc also show the feelings of train workers the publics negative views aswell as the positive ones towards graffiti.
However i find the interviews of the writers experiences on just how they accomplished such big pieces and how they come up with ideas extremely interesting and it is easy to see how much passion they hold for art (though you will see many refuse to call it art in the doc).
We are given the whole history of graffitti up until this point (1982) aswell starting right from the beginning when 'taki 183' wrote his name on a wall and hat was the light that sparked this street revolution.
For those of you that know your stuff about hip hop, this is a must, because it features legends such as 'seen' (one of the most well known, respected and best graffiti artists,'crazy legs' (the legenday break dancer) and his whole crew 'the rock steady crew' probably the most famous break dancing crew to date, 'brim' an original graffiti writer who was in his teens when much of the footage of him was shot (unlike seen) is not featured in this doc though you do seem him in the background form time to time though he is in many youtube videos and other famous docs on graffiti, as he is young when all these docs where shot most of his views were pretty rebelious as being of the younger generation he felt he was being targetted the most by society, he went on to give work shops and lectures at universities such as oxford and cambridge in the uk, displaying how world wide his fame became mostly due to his epic battle with the police and NY city trains and how no matter how much fencing and barb wiring they put up he still managed to get to trains to make a point, that they were making the city look like a prison with all this fencing, through his work. Others featured are dondi, daze skeme and kase 2 among others which will please graffiti lovers.
One thing that was also sad to see was writers selling their work commercially rather than keeping their message for the people of the streets, this is largely due to the interest graffiti recieved from Europe and its various illustrious art galleries and the people who saw this an exciting new movement that money could be made off of, alot of the artists didnt realy sell out like this, though they did do a piece for a gallery every now and then just to make a bit of money which they all desperatley needed, which i suppose it ok and is a good thing but what got on my nerves was when i saw young men who travelled to the inner city and would 'bite' (steal) writers styles and then use them for their own work on a canvas in an art gallery and then sell this for millions aswell as making up their own story of a rough upbringing in say the bronx.
So if you show any interest in this marvelous sub-culture of hip hop definately check this dvd out because you will gain knowledge on the history when it all started in New York City and how it sweeped across the nation though not before being developed in NY (new york clearly has the best style too and will probably remain the capital and best city for graffiti atleats aslong as the 'hall of fame' is around to this date in NY). But it was slightly sad for me to see in this film how the legend of the 'BUFFER' came to power the buffer is something that the train departments developed as a means of washin (spraying) train in a matter of minutes cleansing them of all the markings and graffiti on the outside, and this basically killed graffiti train writing because as a writer also states within the film you can get into the yard on saturday take hours do to your thing wait to see the train monday morning and all the your work is gone. And that is something graffiti will never get back so nowdays its all moved tothe walls of the streets really and you have to have a little bit more of a trained eye to find it let alone understand it.
Henry chalfant had a big part in making this movie and this is a man that is dedicated to graffiti especially writing famous graffiti books such as 'subway art' and aiding in 'spray can art', both of which i world renowned and bibles of graffiti, so if you follow or have knowledge of the history of graffiti then his name should spark something in your mind that lets you know this doc is great.
OH AND THE SOUNDTRACK IS DOPE!!!!!!! all the old skool classic like grandmaster flash and the furious five's politically charged 'the message' provide the perfect background theme to this rebelious movement to commercial society.
This whole movie is actually on google video (i dont know why or how but lol im not about to alert them and state 'excuse me one of the best hip hop docs ever made is on your video site im sure there must be some breach there' there are also some other great graffiti and hip hop movies such as 'wildstyle' (classicl) and 'piece by piece' also on google video (features west coast graffiti and the rise of it in san fran, and L . A. Heres the link anyway to style wars, check it out, you'll be captivated the moment the fast happy music hits after a minute or so....
^^^take out the space, the maximum word is 80 digits so i had to put a space in
Some call it tagging, some call it writing, still others call it bombing--it's all graffiti. Whether it's art or not is another matter, but it's undeniably illegal. Tony Silver and Henry Chalfant's historic PBS documentary Style Wars tracks the rise and fall of subway graffiti in New York in the late 1970s and early 1980s. At the peak of its popularity, graffiti was as much a part of B-boy culture as rapping, scratching, and breaking. The filmmakers present a sympathetic, but well-rounded portrait of their subject through extensive interviews with taggers--notably Seen, Kase, and Dondi--art collectors, transit authorities, and even Mayor Ed Koch, who would eventually put the hammer down. Along the way, they documented the burgeoning breakdance scene, with a focus on the world-famous Rock Steady Crew. The soundtrack features selections from Grandmaster Flash, the Treacherous Three, and other tagger-approved icons of old-school hip-hop.