Battle of the Year

Battle of the Year (2013)

I don't claim to be the biggest Hip Hop head although I do enjoy it and believe I can say I grew up on it. I don't claim to be the an MC but I think I can put down a cool 16 bars if called upon. I'm not the tightest graffiti artist but believe I can pull a lil something together... and I don't claim to be the tightest B-boy although I can bust a move if someone calls me out. I am not the greatest at any element of Hip Hop but I am probably one of the few that can execute a level of competency at any of them. I think this gives me a keen sense of Hip Hop. Not just the Rap game but the entire culture... and with that I feel I am but a few that can truly appreciate the both the moves and the message of the movie Battle of the Year.

Directed by Bensen Lee, The movie starts out with Dante Graham, played by Laz Alonso lighting on the screen with his smooth good looks as record executive, recognizing the roots from whence his long established record company was founded. He goes on to talk about the origins of Hip Hop and how Break Dancing was considered to be part of that foundation. He also went on to discuss how Break Dancing had lost it's "Cool" here in the states but was astounded by the fact that outside the states it is both cool and respected. Respected so much that even some governments subsidize dancers so they can compete against other countries on a world stage. H worried that Hip Hop would soon lose it's "Cool" factor in the states all together. It was certainly a point for Hip Hop heads to ponder.

The rest of the movie played out like the typical "Hail Mary" sports movie script. Jason Blake, played by Josh Holloway is called upon by Dante Graham to assemble a dream team of some of the best B-Boys in the country. They train and weed out the week links til they can settle on the final crew members that will travel with the team to France for the final big World Championship Battle Dance Competition.

Chris Brown make his appearance in the film as Rooster. He is a convincing dancer no doubt but there is debate on the net on whether he is a true B-Boy. The lack of classic B-boy moves in his bag of tricks would suggest now, but still enjoyable to watch. 

If you are truly into Hip Hop culture and enjoy all of the facets of it including Break Dancing, then you will enjoy the movie. Anyone with any kind of passion for Break Dancing, whether it be past, way past, or present you will surely feel a the rhythm in your feet as you resist the temptation to jump into your own head spin. The high flying style of today's international B-Boys is sure to raise an eye-brow at the least and re-establish break dancing as reputable dancing art form. 

Just for the sheer enjoyment of watching the dancing I have always enjoyed on the big screen I have to give this film a "Catch the Matinee". It's not completely worth paying full price but it certainly deserves to be experienced on the big screen.

Beat Street (1984)



I feel like the pre-requisite to the movie "Battle of the Year" is the movie "Beat Street" it actually gives you the background to the Laz's speech he layed down at the beginning of the movie. 'Beat Street' captured all the elements of Hip Hop from DJ'ing, to MCing to B-Boying to Beat Boxing to Graffiti Art. It is truly a testament to the early start of the culture captured on film. 

Inspired by the emerging popularity of East Coast (predominantly New York) hip-hop music and graffiti art that had previously been chronicled in the 1983 classic Wild Style, Beat Street infused hip-hop and rap with pop, freestyle, Latin and disco into the story of a group of young friends who aim to use their under-valued talents at deejaying, rapping, breakdancing and graffiti to escape the doldrums of South Bronx. This is the sort of glum place where the only brightness residents got is the sight of a subway car covered in the blues, greens, reds and yellows of local graffiti artists.

Like the best films of its kind, Beat Street isn’t simply a glorified music video, but rather a celebration of the bond between artists and an examination of a culture that goes unappreciated and misrepresented. Far from being a never-ending series of sunny popping and locking, like the more well-known Breakin’ (and it’s infamous sequel, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo), Beat Street’s darker and more harsh look at this world makes for a powerful experience. The death of one character is played just as serious as it would in far more respected cinema; the events leading to a mighty ten-minute musical sequence that blows my mind every single time in the way its musical guests contort lyrics and sound.

The first American film to ever have two volumes of soundtrack released, the music of Beat Street is quite simply some of the greatest ever put to celluloid. Featuring legends of the era Grandmaster Melle Mel and the Furious Five, Doug E Fresh, Afrika Bambaataa, The System, Jazzy Jay, Kool Moe Dee and a brief appearance by personal favourite Brenda K Starr. It may appear clichéd and simply, but fans of the musical genre would be missing out on something special and era-defining if they skipped it. Elsewhere, it is indispensible to those wishing to navigate the origins of hip-hop. The local Blu-ray release–the first in the world!–is such a stark improvement over the VHS and DVD versions I’ve watched in the past, and this new edition, despite its lack of extras, is now a coveted piece of my collection.

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