Rubble Kings

"Excellent"

Rubble Kings Review


The social and economic strife in New York in the sixties and seventies gave birth to one of the most influential and popular subculture's in recent memory; hip-hop grew out of poverty, segregation and division, with DJs, MCs, breakdancers and graffiti artists providing a positive creative outlet for the troubled neighbourhoods all over the big apple. The South Bronx is incredibly important in the emergence of hip-hop culture, but before there was the abundance of music that exists now there were the Rubble Kings.

Directed by Shan Nicholson, this documentary tells the all-important story of the Ghetto Brothers, a historical gang active in the 1970s. They were one of many, and Rubble Kings touches on a host of other groups that were also active in this period, with first-hand experiences relayed from a variety of talking heads that were in the midst of the street culture some 40 years ago. The gritty imagery of tagged trains, neighbourhood riots and the anti-police attitude that was an undercurrent felt by all those growing up in the Bronx is showcased from the outset; drawing parallels between Walter Hill's 1979 motion-picture The Warriors, the famous 'can you dig it' scene actually went down in reality. 'Yellow' Benji Medendez, a founding member of the Ghetto Brothers, as well as Carlos 'Karate Charlie' Suarez (who held a formidable reputation) speak with intelligence about the conditions that saw gangs grow in popularity, and sparked a multicultural revolution against the authoritative powers who disregarded the interests of the poor and troubled.   

The 60s is widely known as the peace era, but clearly America wasn't entirely populated by hippies and liberal thinkers; the violence and hardship in New York's boroughs was on a steady incline, reaching a catalyst in the early 70s, where the majority of Rubble Kings' story takes place. The South Bronx was a symbol of early decay. The situation emerged out of the shambolic Cross-Bronx expressway, a major freeway that cut up areas and divided neighbourhoods without consideration for residents. As they always do, the poor felt the squeeze, and landlords burnt down their own properties for insurance money, resulting in black families being left homeless and in severe poverty. Homicides increased, and the majority of income earned in the BX was acquired through criminal activity; street gangs that took influence from the Hells Angels ran the area, sporting swastikas and other offensive anti-establishment imagery like the rebels before them. Hip-hop pioneer Afrika Bambaata speaks about the pride gangs members had for their crew, and with poor living conditions breeding increased violence, gangs were spreading up like wildfire throughout New York, comprised of all creeds and colours; the segregation went beyond race to class and social standing.

All of this sounds pretty scary, but Rubble Kings shows the progression from criminal activity and street presence to an attitude more reminiscent of activists. The Ghetto Brothers especially filled the void left by groups such as the Black Panthers, whilst still maintaining their South Bronx reputation and image. They utilised the media to get their message out to America as a while, showing the circumstances taking New York by storm. They also branched out into the arts, with Benjamin Melendez forming a latin funk rock band; the way that music communicates with all people was a cornerstone of the formation of hip-hop, and the groundwork was already being laid down. With dramatic events pushing forward the turn to a united, peaceful front, music was the way out, with a collaborative mentality taking over from the need to violently represent your neighbourhood, promoted by figureheads such as DJ Kool Herc, the timeline between the Ghetto Brothers and the early hip-hop movement is told with clarity by passionate, charismatic voices from the time. 

Rubble Kings is upfront, it's clear and it's important; not enough fans (or for that matter artists) delve deep into the social conditions that gave birth to the global hip-hop culture. The link to the streets is still there, but the reality of the oppression and systematic forming of boundaries against the predominantly african-american communities of 1960s and 70s New York is rarely mentioned. Widen your mind, do your research and watch this. I can only outline the events, there's nothing like hearing it from the horses mouth (or mouths). 



Rubble Kings

Facts and Figures

Genre: Documentaries

Run time: 71 mins

In Theaters: Saturday 23rd October 2010

Distributed by: Saboteur Media

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 71%
Fresh: 10 Rotten: 4

IMDB: 7.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Shan Nicholson

Producer:

Also starring: ,

Contactmusic


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