In this seminal, semidocumentary portrait of hip-hop, Charlie Ahearn shows that the South Bronx wasn’t just burning. It was breaking, popping, locking, tagging and rhyming. Wild Style is just as important a New York City musical as On the Town, so vital and exuberant are its scenes of a burgeoning cultural moment, including Double Trouble’s “Stoop Rap,” the basketball throwdown between the Cold Crush Brothers and the Fantastic Freaks, and the culminating jam at the East River Park band shell.
Though Wild Style has charismatic stars in Lee Quinones as graffiti artist Zoro and Fab Five Freddy as party promoter Phade, it also has its share of scene-stealing moments by the ladies: Witness Lisa Lee’s flow and Sandra Fabara giving Zoro the what for. And it deftly reflects the thin line between inspiration and appropriation by white artists. In a fleeting shot of a graffiti-adorned wall, you can make out one of Keith Haring’s radiant babies. Patti Astor, as the journalist Virginia, is in some ways a surrogate for Ahearn. Blondie’s “Pretty Baby” and “Rapture” play on the soundtrack; that group’s Chris Stein cocomposed Wild Style’s original music. But the film wasn’t made to suggest that Gotham was one big rainbow coalition—its sole purpose was to celebrate the genius of hip-hop’s founders.
Cast and crew
Sandra 'Pink' Fabara