Krush Groove is a 1985 American musical comedy-drama film distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures that was written by Ralph Farquhar and directed by Michael Schultz (who also produced the movie, along with George Jackson and Doug McHenry). This film is based on the early days of Def Jam Recordings and up-and-coming record producer Russell Simmons (renamed Russell Walker in the film), portrayed by Blair Underwood in his feature film debut. Simmons was the film’s co-producer and story consultant; he also had a cameo in the film as a club owner named Crocket.
Russell Walker has signed all of the hottest acts to his Krush Groove record label, including Run-D.M.C., Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde (Alonzo Brown), and Kurtis Blow. Rick Rubin produces their records. When Run-D.M.C. has a hit record and Russell doesn’t have the money to press records, he borrows money from a street hustler. At the same time, Russell and his brother Run are both competing for the heart of R&B singer-percussionist Sheila E. Also appearing in the film are LL Cool J, Beastie Boys, New Edition, The Fat Boys and some of their songs, as well as others from Chaka Khan, Debbie Harry, and the Gap Band. Members of the R&B group Full Force also make a cameo in the film as bodyguards.
The following appeared as themselves, except where noted:
- Blair Underwood (as Russell Walker)
- Sheila E.
- Run-D.M.C. & Jam Master Jay
- The Fat Boys (Prince Markie Dee, Kool Rock Ski, The Human Beat Box)
- Kurtis Blow
- New Edition (Ralph Tresvant, Bobby Brown, Michael Bivins, Ronnie DeVoe, Ricky Bell)
- Beastie Boys
- LL Cool J
- Russell Simmons (as Crocket)
- Richard Gant (as Jay B.)
- Lisa Gay Hamilton (as Iesha)
- Rick Rubin
- Vicky Ruane (as Girl Friday)
- Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde (Andre Harrell and Alonzo Brown)
- Brian “B-Fine” and Paul Anthony George of Full Force (as Jay B.’s bodyguards)
Krush Groove is based on the inception of the Def Jam Recordings label and the hardships that artists Run-D.M.C. and Russell Simmons faced to become successful. Simmons began his career trying to get his company Rush Management up and running. However, in the movie, he is shown as already being teamed up with producer Rick Rubin to form Def Jam, referred to as Krush Groove Records in the film. In reality, the label was started by Rubin in 1984 in his college dorm at New York University. The movie starts off with Run-D.M.C. and Kurtis Blow, known as the King of Rap, as two of the first artists to sign with the label, with both Blow and Run-D.M.C. as artists, songwriters, and record producers.
The beginning of the movie opens with Run-D.M.C. in the studio performing “King of Rock” for Simmons, Rubin, and Blow. However, the group was not always involved in the Def Jam scene as shown in the movie, and Rubin was not the producer of “King of Rock.” Run and DMC had to persuade both Simmons and their original producer and bass player, Larry Smith, to give them a chance to record a demo. With the lyrics that Smith had once bought off of Run for $100, the group’s first demo, “It’s Like That”, was created.
Larry Smith was the producer of Run-D.M.C.’s first two albums, despite them being credited to Rick Rubin, who produced the group’s third album, Raising Hell. However, in the movie, Larry Smith’s role as producer is not portrayed at all.
Later on, the team was joined by its first popular teen sensation, LL Cool J, who plays a very small role in the movie at the age of 17. Playing himself, LL Cool J is discovered through his piece “I Can’t Live without My Radio”, which is performed at an audition in front of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Jam Master Jay, DMC and Rubin in the latter’s apartment. In reality, LL Cool J was discovered in Rubin’s apartment but not through an audition. While going through a box of demos, Beastie Boy Ad-Rock stumbled across LL’s demo tape. With this, he produced a beat and co-wrote “I Need a Beat” with LL and Rubin, which launched both of their careers, which allowed the Def Jam label to take off. The song “I Can’t Live without My Radio” was made for the movie as a way for LL Cool J to star in it. However, this song was also one of the hit songs on his debut album Radio.
Other artists that were a part of the Rush Management roster, but did not have a major role in the film, include Beastie Boys, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, and Whodini. Characters that were not part of Rush Management but greatly contributed to the new scene were the Fat Boys, Sheila E, and New Edition.
The Fat Boys were the first group to showcase a human beat box while rhyming. In the movie, the group originally referred to itself as the Disco Three. It was not until a scene in an Italian buffet, where the three boys took the phrase all you can eat to the next level by eating everything. When the group realized that they were really fat, they decided to give themselves the name Fat Boys. In reality, the name Fat Boys was suggested by the group’s manager when he received a $350 hotel bill for extra breakfast ordered by the group on their European tour. As portrayed in the movie, the group was discovered through the Coca-Cola and Tin Pan Apple hip-hop contest at Radio City Music Hall, where the trio won the grand prize—a recording contract—but had entered the contest to win the second-place prize, a stereo set. The group perform their songs “Don’t You Dog Me”, “All You Can Eat”, “Fat Boys”, and “Pump it Up.”
Throughout the movie, Sheila E. and Russell Simmons are romantically involved, which discouraged Run, who was always interested in her. In reality, Run did not like the concept of being disloyal to his brother, and the romance between him and Sheila was made up. Sheila E. made it into the film simply because they wanted a love interest, like in most films, and she recorded for Warner Bros. Records, the sister company of the film’s distributor. In the movie. Sheila plays herself, a drummer and percussionist, in which she performs her songs “Holly Rock” and “A Love Bizarre”. In addition, all of the money issues that Russell Simmons faced in funding the label by borrowing from loan sharks and friends is also false.
The movie was not made the way the artists desired, but with all the talent of that time and most of the members of the Def Jam and Rush Management family. The purpose of the movie, according to Russell Simmons, was to showcase the array of young talent emerging from New York’s black music scene and depict its vibrancy.
Krush Groove was filmed in The Bronx, Manhattan (including at least one scene in the Marble Hill projects) and Queens in 26 days in April 1985 at a cost of $3 million. Among the locations where the movie was shot was the famous Disco Fever, a popular club during the embryonic stages of hip hop that, by the time of the film, had fallen on some hard times. Disco Fever owner Sal Abbatiello expected the movie not only to turn the spotlight on the burgeoning hip-hop movement but also to “bring attention [back] to the club” and so agreed to have scenes shot there. Unfortunately, the attention surrounding the filming brought the scrutiny of the local authorities, who shut the club down for good on the last day of shooting for not having all the proper licenses and permits. There was also a scene shot in Shepard Hall of the historic City College of New York.
During an interview to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the film, Russell Simmons reflected on the legacy of Krush Groove and its position in hip-hop culture history. The film, Simmons said, is still recognizable not only for having brought together so many Def Jam stars at the time, but for also introducing new talent, such as LL Cool J. Cool J was so persistent during filming, showing up to shooting locations and performing freestyles, that producers ended up putting him in the final cut. This backdoor auditioning process became a staple of the production.
The movie received a mixed reception. The movie currently holds a 43% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on seven reviews.
Music from the Original Motion Picture Krush Groove (also called just Krush Groove Soundtrack) is a soundtrack album by various urban-oriented artists, which was released on Warner Bros. Records in 1985. The album peaked at #79 on the Pop chart and #14 on the R&B chart. The Krush Groove soundtrack was released on Warner Bros. Records in 1985 and featured songs from the movie. Only 1,000 copies of the album were ever pressed on compact disc. The film was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Original Song for the song All You Can Eat.
The movie was released on VHS in 1986, then DVD in 2003. Among the special extras included on the DVD is commentary from Underwood, Schultz, and The Source magazine Senior Editor Brett Johnson, a theatrical trailer for the movie, and the Krush Groove All-Stars video “Krush Groovin’.”
Krush Groove is referenced in the movie Dogma (1999) as being the subject of a bet between the two fallen angels, Bartleby and Loki, on whether it was going to be a bigger movie than E.T. (1982).