by david chisholm
with all the (well deserved) attention it’s getting straight out of compton, i’ve been forced to go back and watch some old hip hop movies. And where better to start than the overlooked and underrated filmography of fat boys? For those of you who don’t know, the Fat Boys were a very successful rap group from the mid 1980s to early 1990s. They consisted of Mark Morales (Prince Markie Dee), Damon Wimbley (Kool Rock-Ski) and Darren robinson (buff love), and they got their name from the physical characteristic they all had in common. they were hilarious and a lot of fun to watch, but they were also incredibly talented. buff love was one of the best beat boxers of all time. today they are mostly forgotten, despite being an incredibly influential rap group and appearing in three movies, along with a number of TV shows and commercials. So, to help remedy this situation, I decided to go back and watch all three movies featuring the fat guys. you’re welcome.
Knights of the City was produced in 1984 under the title Cry of the City, but wasn’t released until 1986. Presumably, this had more than something to do with the arrest and trial of the film’s executive producer, Michael Franzese. a man whom tom brokaw called “the prince of the mob”. during the two-year gap between production and release, the fat boys would become infinitely fatter and more famous and appear in another film in a much larger role. but the town knights are worth watching for their petite appearance.
knights of the city was written by and starred leon isaac kennedy, who you may remember as too sweet of the three prison movies. apparently after penitentiary ii, mr. Kennedy decided that writing a movie couldn’t be that difficult and he sat down to write the story of a tough street gang who wants to leave behind their life of crime and succeed as a gang. Kennedy plays the leader of the interracial gang of royalty, Troy, who is constantly torn between his desire to be a serious musician and his sense of duty to protect his turf from the rival gang of mechanics (they steal cars).
This movie would be so much better if the fat guys were members of one of the gangs, but sadly they aren’t. they’re only in one scene. After a fight with the mechanics, the royals are jailed for a night and coincidentally are in a cell with the Fat Boys and Kurtis Blow. So when they decide to take their time and practice their songs, they treat us to a musical interlude that includes rap sessions from both hip hop luminaries. this is by far the best part of the movie. buff love makes noises while beatboxing that I had no idea a human being could make. and prince markie dee destroys in the verse of him. it’s a lot of fun, and it’s interesting to see how surprisingly not fat everyone here is. I mean, they’re not small by any means. but neither are they anything like what they would later be. When Buff Love died in 1995 of a heart attack at the age of 28, he weighed 450 pounds. he’s not that great in this prison cell music scene.
Once you get past the jail cell scene, it really isn’t that great of a movie. has some really interesting cameos. kc (of the band sol) and smokey robinson appear as themselves. and Sammy Davis Jr. he shot a scene for the movie that was cut from the final version, which seems like a gigantic mistake at this point. but casting and cameos aside, there’s not much here. There’s a reason Kennedy’s writing career didn’t take off after this movie. the love story is dropped in the third act with hardly any explanation and the love interest (who was a very important character up to this point) is forgotten. the relationship between the gangs and the police is actually quite interesting, but almost completely ignored. The most interesting thing about the movie, apart from the appearance of fat people, is how similar the plot is to Miami Connection, which came out a year later in 1987. In conclusion, I would say that it is worth seeing as a curiosity, but if you have little time alone find the jail cell music scene online.
now, time travel to 1985. town gentlemen had already been filmed, but was on hold while the mobster trial of its executive producer continued. During that in-between time, the Fat Boys teamed up with Run-D.M.C., Kurtis Blow, New Edition, Sheila E., LL Cool J, the Beastie Boys, and a handful of others to make a movie based on the early years of Def Jam records. and the life of russell simmons. if you’re thinking to yourself, “that sounds like the best thing ever filmed,” then you’re absolutely right.
krush groove apparently tells the story of russell simmons and rick rubin from def jam records. but “simmons” is changed to “walker” and “def jam” is changed to “krush groove”. Then, to make it more interesting, they launched a love triangle between Russell, Run (from Run-D.M.C.), and Sheila E. that did not exist in real life. To make things even weirder and more meta, there are stickers and t-shirts that actually say “Def Jam Records” all over the background of the movie. but despite (or perhaps because of) the added drama and weird intrusions of reality, this movie totally works.
I would say that the biggest factor contributing to the success of the movie is the fat guys. while the love story and the success of the label is advertised as the main plot of the film (look for the film on any website and the description will only tell you about that), the fat boys plot receives the same attention, if not more. we find them at a high school where they perform on a stairway between classes. we see them prepare and compete in a talent show. and, more importantly, we watch them take advantage of an “all you can eat for $3.99” sign.
The pizza buffet scene is the best in the entire movie for several reasons. is the funniest musical number by far. fat guys rap about how much they like to eat as they completely topple a sbarro’s buffet. it’s hilarious, but it’s also pretty amazing. these guys knew how to rap. they were very good at what they did. this scene could be cut from the movie and compared to the best rap music videos from the same era and stand totally on its own. plus, you get the mythologized origin story of how they got the name “fat guys” at the end of the scene.
if that’s not enough to sell you krush groove, and it should be, then let me give you a quick rundown of some other awesome elements: kurtis blow performing in a leather jacket and top hat. a seventeen year old ll cool j in the background of almost every scene because he was trying to convince def jam to sign him and he wouldn’t leave the set. a performance by sheila e. from one of her songs that was written by prince. performances by new edition, the beastie boys and run-d.m.c. it’s an amazing movie musical and everyone should see it.
After Krush Groove ended, director Michael Schultz also apparently acknowledged that the fat guys were the best part of the movie. So, he decided to capitalize on his talent and build an entire movie around them. Was this the best decision he could have made? in terms of his career, probably not. but personally I am very glad that he did. I grew up watching the three stooges. I loved the physical humor, the sound effects, and the brotherly/adversarial relationship. judging by the evidence, so did the fat guys. Taking all of those elements and then adding some of the humorous (but impressive) musical sequences they had perfected in their previous movies, the Fat Boys made their own Three Stooges movie (even comparing it to the Stooges in the original trailer).
definitely doesn’t always work. there are a fair amount of jokes that just don’t work and the supporting cast isn’t great. but despite these things, you are convinced by the absolute dedication that the fat boys obviously had for this project. they are totally convinced that this will work. and there’s no way not to have a good time watching them (as long as you have at least a piece of your soul).
Fat boys play stretcher bearers at America’s lowest rated retirement home. they are hired by a man to come take care of his elderly (and very rich) uncle. The plan is to let these idiots do their thing, and the uncle will die of incompetence within a week, leaving his fortune to the debt-ridden nephew. but in typical puppet fashion, the clumsy mistakes these orderlies make somehow lead to success rather than failure.
featuring a pretty awesome version of the beatles’ “baby, you’re a rich man”, an amazing skating rink scene involving all the fat guys and an elderly ralph bellamy, and cameos from the beach boys and ray parker jr., disorder is a film that has been very unfairly forgotten. I could write an entire article on how police profiling and abuse jokes are just as relevant today as they were in 1987.
If that’s not enough for you fat boys, there are a handful of other things to check out. the fat boys appeared in the miami vice episode “florence italy”. They also appeared in an episode of Mr. the detective series t and t. and if you’re craving more musical appearances, definitely check out the videos they made for sesame workshop’s 1980s math show, and the theme song for a nightmare on elm street 4: the dream master (which in reality features freddy rapping) .
the fat guys were amazing. and somehow they have been forgotten. no one talks about how cool the krush groove is or how messy it is a much better attempt at making the three stooges than the 2012 movie. beatboxing is gone so no one cares that buff love was one of the best practitioners in history. The style these guys had is something no one has come close to achieving (except maybe Miley Cyrus). Prince Markie Dee used to wear a raccoon fur hat. he is probably the last adult to wear one in public to this day. how do you not talk about these guys all the time? It is a tragedy and I dedicate myself to correcting it. go see these movies!