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The Sound of the South Bronx

The Sound of the South Bronx

Wild Style Reinvents the Urban Musical

(p.85) 2 The Sound of the South Bronx
Hip Hop on Film
Kimberley Monteyne
University Press of Mississippi

Chapter 2 offers a close study of Charlie Ahearn’s groundbreaking independent hip hop productionWild Style.It reveals how folk musical conventions operating in the film were used to deploy a radical and politically engaged cinema that reformed contemporary perceptions of the South Bronx as an alien landscape riddled with crime and drug abuse. The notion of “home”—central to American musical film—is examined in Wild Style in relation to the historical devaluation of “home” in urban communities of color. This chapter also addressesthe material condition of “home” in contemporary inner city life. In conclusion, the chapter turns to a discussion of Wild Style’s reflexive tendencies in relation to the broader history of musical film and hip hop artistic practice, noting how it dynamically harnessed the tension between two traditionally adverse modes of filmmaking—the documentary and the musical.

Keywords:   Wild Style, documentary, South Bronx, folk musical, urban communities

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