Krush Groove (1985)
Directed by Michael Schultz
Starring: Blair Underwood, Run DMC, Sheila E., The Fat Boys
Available for Streaming on Netflix? Yes.
SPOILERS THROUGHOUT. Krush Groove is based on the early days of Def Jam Records and its cofounder, Russell Simmons. Here Def Jam is “Krush Groove” and Russell Simmons is “Russell Walker.” We follow Russell as he makes several horrible business decisions on his way to establishing Krush Groove Records. I hope Def Jam was not run as badly as Russell runs things in this movie. Also, somewhat inexplicably there is a side-story that follows the Fat Boys as they go from a group of fat rapping high school students into fat rap stars. This one shouldn’t take long to review since it’s basically a long music video for Def Jam.
The movie starts off with an epic montage that introduces us to all of the principal characters. Run DMC are in the studio killing the track “King of Rock” while Russell Walker (played by Blair Underwood) and Rick Rubin, the co-founders of Krush Groove look on in approval. As the track goes on, we see Run DMC at a show rapping it to an enthusiastic crowd and the offices of Krush Groove Records, as boxes of Krush Groove records are being shipped out. It is during this montage that we also get introduced to the characters in the B-story of our movie: The Rise of the Fat Boys. We see each of them get ready for their day at school.
Kool Rock-Ski packs a bunt cake as his lunch.
The Human Beat Box sucks down a soda while he irons suspenders?
Prince Markie Dee goes the pervert route and decides to commit sex crimes.
These guys are really living up to their name. We learn that the Fat Boys are listening to Run DMC and Prince Markie Dee and the Human Beat Box have dreams of also becoming big rap stars, to Kool Rock-Shi’s consternation: he just wants to eat all day. Also during this montage we find out that Run DMC have a day job at what is probably the coolest car wash ever, where people dance on cars and Jam Master Jay spins records.
Instead of embracing this awesomeness of a car wash, their boss fires Rum DMC. Rum DMC organizes a labor strike and everyone at the car wash quits. Good luck now, boss. We learn all of this in a 5 minute montage.
Now we are in Krush Groove’s offices and Rick Rubin and their secretary can barely keep up with the phone calls. It turns out they are all orders and angry customers who still haven’t received their records. Russell Walker comes strutting into the office and tells Rick that it’s happening just like he told him it would. Rick informs Russell that they are selling records that they don’t even have and that they don’t have the capital to print them. I guess that is what Russell wanted all along because he tells Rick that this is only a minor problem. Not only that, Russell picks up the phone and makes promises that he will give a customer their order tomorrow. This is the first moment in the movie that we should realize that Russell is a horrible businessman. Taking orders that you can’t fulfill and then lying to your customers is absolutely horrible customer service. There is also an issue of supply and demand economic models. Russell is inflating their actual supply when in theory he could be exploited the low supply and high demand for higher unit costs. Instead, he is taking smaller unit costs (although higher number of units sold) in selling his records. This doesn’t really matter since Russell is probably just ripping these people off anyways.
Now we go back to the B-story of the Fat Boys as they are in biology class. They are dissecting fetal pigs and this obviously makes them hungry. These guys are really fat.
The Fat Boys get bored and decide to clown on the teacher and The Human Beat Box does some beatboxing. She notices that it’s him and calls him “the fat one”. After asking the fat one to stand up, they all stand up and she sends them to the principals office and gives them an “F” for the fetal pig assignment (although Kool Rock-Ski deserves an A in cooking). Anyways, the Fat Boys don’t do that and Disco 3 (as they are known as) goes to do an impromptu music video in the hallway.
So Run DMC goes to see Russell’s father at the Church (played by Russell Simmon’s dad) and he admonishes them for quitting their job at the car wash, because car wash employee is a stable and great career. Russell comes in and asks for $5000. Great business decision for asking a church, maybe they can scrape some money out of the donations. Here we find out that Russell has taken 10,000 orders before he knew if he could fill any of them. Anyways, Russell’s dad basically tells him to grow the fuck up and go away.
Run DMC and Russell go to a bar and Sheila E. is playing. Both Run and Russell state very politely that they would be in the business of getting nasty with that. Russell meets a gangster/loan shark/professional named JayB who tells him that he likes the record and that if he ever needs help, to let him know. Looks like we solved Russell’s money issue! Russell’s friends tell him to stay away but of course since he hasn’t told them about the poor state of Krush Groove, he isn’t going to listen.
Sheila E. finishes and complains to her manager about the shitty bar when Run comes up to her and steps his game up. Run gets this acting gig presumably since he is a better actor than DMC (neither are very good). Sheila E. sits with Run DMC and tells them that she thinks rap is stupid.
Meanwhile, the Fat boys try to get into the bar with the worst ID’s ever. They get turned away by this guy.
The next day, Russell and Rick go to get a loan from the bank and neither of them have any idea what they are doing. Rick is on the right track and starts lying about what they own to make their company sound stronger. When asked what type of record company they are, Russell and Rick rap the response. The loan officer apparently didn’t like that and rejects their request for a loan. Russell yells at him calling it bullshit and Rick calls the loan officer gay. They leave.
Realizing that they need the money to keep Krush Groove going, Rick implores Russell to work together as a team. Rather than do that, Russell says fuck it and gets a loan from JayB without telling anyone.
Next we are at a concert featuring Krush Groove artists, including Kurtis Blow. Russell gets an offer from a representative at a major label, Galaxy Records. Russell turns him down out of hand without telling anyone. Russell isn’t very good at this whole teamwork/business thing. Run shows up late for the concert and then has a Prince-era, pre-Magic Johnson era Sheila E. perform instead of him singing HollyRock, complete with a band of Prince and the Revolution rejects.
Russell is pissed because they are only guaranteed money for one band and Run went and fucked that all up. Run can’t take any criticism and wants to leave instead of doing his commitment to play a show. After a lot of dramatic posturing Run goes out there to play the show. This triangle of Russell-Run-Sheila E is supposed to be dramatic conflict of the movie. Another Run DMC performance (“It’s Like That”).
They go to a club after the show. Run and Russell get into an argument. Sheila E. turns Run down and says that she sees him as a brother. Run promptly gets on another girl. Russell gets on that and makes sure that Sheila gets home safe. Meanwhile, the guy from Galaxy Records talks up Run to sign with them and tells him that Russell turned him down earlier.
The next day, Krush Groove is holding tryouts for their label. After watching a girl perform they say “no more auditions” when LL Cool J walks through the door. Jam Master Jay is PISSED and must hate auditions. He yells “I SAID NO MORE AUDITIONS”, unreasonably upset. It’s a weird characterization since this is really the only screen time he gets in the entire movie.
LL Cool J gets his music video in the movie and they love him. Meanwhile, at the Disco Fever there is a talent competition going on that Russell is judging. New Edition gets a music video now. Russell runs into JayB and despite selling tons of records, he does not have the money to give JayB his loan back. Russell pays him a little bit that JayB takes as interest. JayB informs that Russell that he has days to pay it back. Another poor business decision: taking out loans that you can’t pay back.
Up next in the talent competition is the Beastie Boys! They come to the stage and are promptly…booed? The Beastie Boys get booed in this movie while the Fat Boys get their entire story told? I guess I can look at it now with the perspective of history on my side but I think you can figure out which band of the two sold 40 million records world wide. (Although the Beastie Boys didn’t get their own movie.)
Meanwhile, the Fat Boys are on their way to the Disco Fever to perform at the talent show. Kool Rock-Ski decides he can’t do it because they will make fun of them for being fat. He’s right.
Russell runs into the guy from Galaxy who is with Run DMC. Russell tells him that he is open to working with him. The guy informs him that he already signed Run DMC. Turns out Russell never signed Run DMC to an official contract. Poor business decision #1323.
New Edition wins the talent competition. The Fat Boys have serious self esteem issues (probably from years of being fat and ridiculed) and The Human Beat Box breaks down and starts crying. Kurtis Blow feels sorry for them and gets them a spot as the alternate for next week’s even bigger talent show. Kurtis talks to Russell and Russell tells him that Krush Groove is over.
The Human Beat Box is still crying about losing the talent competition. Of course, they see the one thing that can solve all of their problems. Maybe to help explain their weight problems and self-esteem issues, it seems that The Fat Boys have an extreme Solace Eating disorder. What occurs next is an insane music video/commercial for Sbarro that takes up the next four minutes of the movie. Do yourself a favor and watch this. It has to be seen to be believed.
After eating the store out of business, they run back home where they have a heart t0 heart discussion about the future of their band. Prince Markie Dee says that they are afraid to be who they are on stage. That they should rap about things they like such as food. (Because songs such as “Don’t You Love Me” and “Let’s Get Funky” are too pretentious for them) They decide to change their name from Disco 3 to the Fat Boys. Has there ever been a more shallow band in history than the Fat Boys? They only existed to make fat jokes and rap about how much they like to eat food. That’s all they did. The one guy even wears a squirrel hat. Also, this side story is completely disassociated from everything else that is going on in the movie. Why are we following the exploits of the Fat Boys during the movie about the start of Def Jam? Not that I’m complaining or anything, it’s pretty entertaining stuff.
Russell gets the bright idea to record Sheila E. and therefore get the money to pay off JayB’s loan. Russell brings the Sheila E. records to the clubs but Galaxy has blackballed Krush Groove from all the local clubs.
New Edition cancels from the talent show which means that The Fat Boys get a spot on the bill. They perform and everybody loves them. They win the talent show! And with that they win a record contract with Krush Groove! The least fat Fat Boy gets the girl.
In the other story, JayB sends some thugs to beat up Russell for not paying the money back that he promised. Feeling threatened, he goes to Sheila E’s place in the middle of the night. Saying that he’s in a tight spot, he asks her if he can stay the night. She lets him in. It’s not long before he’s lighting candles and they are making sweet sweet love to “Tender Love” in full on spectacularly 80s fashion. All the young men out there reading this: go to a ladies house in the middle of the night and pretend that you are distress. You will get laid.
Run goes to see Sheila E and she lets him know about Russell’s problems. Feeling guilty, Run goes to see Russell who is getting beat up again by JayB’s jheri-curled thugs. Run runs in and gets beat up too.
Run apologizes to Russell for bailing on him and Russell apologizes as well. They hug and “Tender Love” comes on again and I’m not sure if there gonna have sex or not. It’s only implied.
Russell asks Run for money and Run says okay. Sheila comes and kisses Russell, right in front of Run. In yo face!
Run DMC go back to Russell and this time, they sign a contract. The Fat Boys bring their dates to the Disco Fever, all wearing matching satin jackets. Russell takes the money from Run to pay off JayB. The movie ends with them all rapping together.
In conclusion, this movie is a lot of fun for the music. It really is just a long music video featuring Def Jam artists strung together by weak. disjointed plotline. The Fat Boys story and Krush Groove story really are pretty disassociated from each other. Russel truly is a horrible businessman. He makes bad decision after bad decision and is lucky enough to get bailed out by his more successful friends in the end. This shouldn’t be any celebration of the birth of an enterprise. However despite all of this, this really is fun to watch. The Fat Boys are always amusing. The music is entertaining and the soundtrack is pretty solid.