Walter Hill’s 1979 action classic The Warriors lives in a strange space between cartoony exaggeration and documentary grit. On the one hand, its portrayal of New York gangs is, by design, a comic-book exaggeration of what was really going on in the streets of New York at the time. On the other, Hill shot so much of the film on real New York locations that it doubles as a time capsule. If you want to know what it was like to roam the graffiti-marked streets of ’70s New York, this is one of the go-to movies.
The Warriors also echoes real-life in other ways. Though based on a 1965 novel by Sol Yurick, who drew in turn on the classic Greek work Anabasis, its inciting incident plays like a tragic variation on the Hoe Avenue peace meeting, a 1971 gathering that helped stop bloodshed in the Bronx and pave the way for the emergence of hip-hop culture.
That’s the turf covered by Shan Nicholson’s documentary Rubble Kings, and in this clip, those who were there recall both the events leading up to the peace treaty and the flowering of culture that followed thanks to the Ghetto Brothers, DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa and others with feet planted in both the gang world and the world of music.
Rubble Kings appeared in theaters this summer to strong review. Writing in the Village Voice, Alan Scherstul called it “an impassioned examination of New York’s gang culture of the late 1970s,” that, “isn’t just a fascinating piece of urban history. It’s also a challenge to common assumptions about that culture, and a testament to the power of organization within a community.” Part of a wave of projects focusing on this fascinating period — alongside the hip-hop fashion doc Fresh Dressed and Baz Luhrmann’s forthcoming Netflix series The Get Down — Rubble Kings is now streaming on Netflix and available for rent or purchase on numerous streaming platforms. Its soundtrack, featuring tracks from Little Shalimar, Run the Jewels, and Tunde Adebimpe was released today.