The 1984 film “Beat Street” by Steven Hager was the first American film featuring two soundtracks. The film, which was originally titled “Looking for the Perfect Beat” featured popular rap groups of the 1980’s like the Rock Steady Crew, Afrika Bambaataa & the Soul Sonic Force, the Treacherous Three (featuring Kool Mo Dee), Grandmaster Melle Mel and the Furious Five and Doug E. Fresh. Other appearances were made by the famous “Father of Hip Hop,” Dj Kool Herc and actors Rae Dawn Chong and Kadeem Hardison, though the young Hardison’s scenes were cut during production.
“Beat Street” was patterned after the first hip-hop motion picture, “Wild Style” by Charlie Ahearn. The film featured prominent rap figures such as Fab Five Freddy, Lee Quinones, Lady Pink, the Rock Steady Crew, The Cold Crush Brothers, and Grandmaster Flash.
“Beat Street” and its predecessor, “Wild Style,” were the two films that introduced the art of rap and the hip-hop lifestyle to foreign countries like Germany. However, some used the film as an example of chaotic conditions in a capitalist society. The film is based on the life of real New York-based graffiti artists and rappers. One of the main characters, “Spit,” is based on the life of graffiti artist CAP MPC, whose story was captured in a 1984 documentary called “Style Wars.”
While the movie featured the music and breakin’ lifestyles of New York’s finest rappers, streetdancers and graffiti artists, the artwork in “Beat Street” was done predominately by professional set decorators.
“Beat Street” opened at the box office on June 8, 1984 and closed its opening weekend with $5.2 million. Overall the film has grossed $16.6 million. “Beat Street” opened the door for the popularity of films in the rap genre like “Breakin” (1984), “Krush Groove” (1985), “House Party” (1990) and many others featuring contemporary rappers.