“The Breaks” Film Captures The Essence of 90s Hip-Hop Down to the DJ Premier Soundtrack (Video)
Last night (12/14), Vh1 had a screening of its upcoming film, The Breaks. The event took place at Harlem’s acclaimed Red Rooster restaurant, hosted by owner Chef Marcus Samuelsson. Several key members of the production were present, including director and writer Seith Mann (Homeland, Ballers, The Walking Dead, Californication), writer and story consultant, Dan Charnas, executive producer, Bill Flanagan, music supervisor DJ Premier, lyrical ghostwriter Phonte (formerly of Little Brother and current member of The Foreign Exchange), as well as several members of the cast, including Tristan Wilds (The Wire, 90210), Afton Williamson (Nashville), Wood Harris (The Wire, Paid In Full), David Call (Gossip Girl), Antoine Harris (Ballers), Torae and more. After the film was shown, veteran on air journalist Sway hosted a panel featuring Charnas, Mann, Premier and more.
From its opening seconds, the film established its credibility as an authentic representation of the early days of Hip-Hop. Set in 1990 New York City, DJ Premier’s sonic imprint could be felt throughout, and anchored the film with the sounds that wafted through the city in that era. The soundtrack included music by De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, D-Nice, Bell Biv Devoe, Kool G Rap, Poor Righteous Teachers, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, as well as samplings of the R&B du jour, including a memorable scene driven by a Johnny Gill background cue. Preemo also filled in the blanks with his own original music, as part of the score.
While the music served as the thread that wove its way through the film, the movie also was held together by strong storytelling and standout characters, with each drawing on inspiration from real-life events and people. The story was informed, in part, by Charnas’ stellar book, The Big Payback. Traces of incidents related to The Notorious B.I.G., Snoop Dogg, Sean “Puffy” Combs, radio executive Keith Naftaly and more could be seen by the discerning eye. Strong musical performances, fueled by Preemo’s tracks and Phonte’s written verses, also lent credibility to the film, along with standout cameos by the likes of Method Man and rising sensation, A-F-R-O. No detail was glossed over, from the clothing to the ominous presence of driveby shootings.
The story follows the lives of Nikki (Williamson), DeeVee (Wilds) and David (Call), as they each struggle to break into the music industry, as an executive, producer and radio programmer, respectively. Each is met with a great deal of push back, much of which is owed to the nascent nature of the Hip-Hop industry in that time period. The film is a strong reminder that, while it is a global cultural tour de force now, not too long ago, many thought Hip-Hop was just a passing fad.
Based on the loose ends left at the film’s ending, it’s clear Vh1 is angling to have it become a series, should the demand merit it…and, it should. For all those who are seeking an authentic representation of the Hip-Hop world at the start of what many consider to be its Golden Era, The Breaks is the closest thing yet to living during that time.
Tune in to Vh1 at 9pm EST on Monday, January 4th, to watch The Breaks in its entirety.