This Fast-Paced Documentary On 1977 NYC Shows Hip-Hop’s Playground (Video)
From The Get Down to The Deuce, 1970s New York City has become a recent beacon of pop culture inspiration. At the time, the Big Apple seemed defined by countercultures. Within the five boroughs, politics, sex, crime, and the fight for equal rights would help shape critical advancements in music, painting, film, and fashion. One of those developments would eventually be defined as “Hip-Hop.” It was an intersection of music, graffiti, dance, and moving the crowd by microphone. In 1977, the expression found in DJ-helmed parties in parks, rec centers, and enterprising clubs would shape the next 40 years of music.
Meanwhile, just a subway stop away, New York City played host to Punk and House music events. Along with Hip-Hop, these events and cultures would become the basis for so much of what permeates Pop music today.
In 2007, Henry Corra’s documentary NY77: The Coolest Year In Hell aired on VH1, as part of the channel’s “Rock Doc” initiative. With care and class, the film examines all that transpired in one year—especially during the summer—within New York City’s five boroughs. Hip-Hop is a focal point, with commentary from Cold Crush Brothers’ Grandmaster Caz and Disco Wiz, KRS-One, Style Wars‘ co-creator Henry Chalfant, and DJ Hollywood, among others. House music pioneer Frankie Knuckles appears, as well as broadcast journalist Geraldo Rivera, 1970s porn star Annie Sprinkle, DJ John “Jellybean” Benitez, and Mayor Ed Koch. Outside of music and art, the film explores the two-day blackout, the Son Of Sam killings and subsequent capture, Studio 54, the mayoral election, and the sex trade of Times Square and Downtown.
Regarding Hip-Hop, Corra’s 90-minute feature documentary looks at the park jams as an escape from rough conditions in places like the South Bronx. Important club The Disco Fever is covered, and how B-Boy and B-Girl fashions were allowed in (namely sneakers) for an extra cover charge. Caz and Disco Wiz recall the dangers of playing events in those days, and just how they powered the turntables and massive racks of speakers. Moreover, the moving masterpieces of train cars are documented, as graffiti took NYC by storm.
What makes this doc especially cool is the animations and treatments over archival photos and videos. This is a great balance of history, entertainment, nostalgia, and 2000s impact.