Kung Fu hip hop: the leg­end con­tin­ues

The Man with the Iron Fists car­ries on an un­likely hy­brid

Toronto Star - - MOVIES - JA­SON AN­DER­SON SPE­CIAL TO THE STAR

For one of hip-hop’s most revered fig­ures to di­rect and star in his own mar­tial-arts movie might seem like an un­usual ex­am­ple of mul­ti­task­ing in the eyes of mu­sic fans and film­go­ers alike.

But afi­ciona­dos of the rap­per and pro­ducer known as RZA — whose movie The Man with the Iron Fists hits theatres this week­end, al­beit with­out an early screening for press — know that this ca­reer move was in­evitable.

That’s be­cause RZA’s ad­mi­ra­tion for kung-fu cinema has long been ob­vi­ous in his work with the WuTang Clan.

One early in­di­ca­tion came with the ar­rival of the Staten Is­land su­per­group’s 1993 de­but, En­ter the Wu-Tang (36 Cham­bers), an al­bum whose very name ref­er­enced The 36th Cham­ber of Shaolin, a chop­socky clas­sic orig­i­nally re­leased by the Shaw Broth­ers Stu­dio in 1978.

In­deed, it’s more ac­cu­rate to see The Man with the Iron Fists as the cul­mi­na­tion of a long re­la­tion­ship be­tween hip-hop and mar­tial arts. Rooted in the pop­u­lar­ity of kung-fu movies with African-Amer­i­can au­di­ences in the 1970s, this shared his­tory has many other key mo­ments, some of which may be less honourable than oth­ers.

SPE­CIAL ED SHOWS OFF HIS MOVES (1990):

In “The Mis­sion,” an early ex­am­ple of a rap video get­ting amped up with mar­tial-arts ac­tion, the Brook­lyn MC bat­tles a vil­lain with an eye patch. When other meth­ods fail against his ad­ver­sary’s fly­ing fists and feet, Spe­cial Ed de­cides to beat his op­po­nent “Flat­bush style,” which mostly in­volves punch­ing him in the head.

VANILLA ICE GIVES IT UP FOR THE TEENAGE MU­TANT NINJA TUR­TLES (1991):

The rep­til­ian crew’s sec­ond big-screen ad­ven­ture gets mad awe­some when the Ice­man drops his “Ninja Rap” in praise of our four green heroes. All to­gether now: “Go ninja, go ninja, go!”

THE PHAR­CYDE TAKE STREET FIGHTER TO THE NEXT LEVEL (1994):

Though the Jean-Claude Van Damme big-screen adaptation of the ar­cade clas­sic Street Fighter was no­to­ri­ously lousy, the clip for “Pan­de­mo­nium” — a tasty sound­track con­tri­bu­tion by the Phar­cyde — ful­filled the fan­tasies of any­one who ever longed to en­ter a Sega Ge­n­e­sis and do bat­tle with eight-bit bad­dies.

JET LI STARS WITH DMX IN ROMEO MUST DIE (2000):

This hit her­alded a wave of ac­tion flicks that paired movie tough guys with mu­sic­world gangstas. The trend would reach its nadir two years later with Half Past Dead, a movie that con­firmed the only thing worse than Steven Sea­gal’s singing was Ja Rule’s act­ing.

RZA MAKES MU­SIC FOR KILL BILL VOL. 1 (2003):

Though not RZA’s first movie score (he also did Jim Jar­musch’s Ghost Dog: Way of the Samu­rai), his hard-hit­ting work here helped forge a for­tu­itous al­liance with Quentin Tarantino, whose name graces The Man With the Iron Fists as “pre­sen­ter.”

CEE-LO GREEN COV­ERS “KUNG FU FIGHT­ING” (2008):

Carl Dou­glas’s 1974 nov­elty hit about some folks whose fists were “fast as light­ning” has been cov­ered many times. Be­sides Cee-Lo’s mel­liflu­ous ren­di­tion for the sound­track of Kung Fu Panda, lis­ten­ers may also know it via a Euro­dance ver­sion by Bus Stop and Tom Jones’ cover for the Jackie Chan movie Su­per­cop. Surely Lil Wayne will not rest un­til he’s had a crack at it.

KUNG FU HIP-HOP IS RE­LEASED IN THEATRES IN CHINA (2008):

Though most of this re­cent Hong Kong pro­duc­tion is merely an Asian-flavoured knock­off of the Step Up se­ries, it does de­liver on the prom­ise of its ti­tle with some of the most heavy-duty dance-fight­ing since the video for “Beat It.”

MC HAM­MER LAUNCHES MMA CLOTH­ING LINE (2010):

Who knew that the man be­hind “U Can’t Touch This” now does man­age­ment, mar­ket­ing and build-brand­ing for MMA fight­ers? He even makes clothes for ath­letes and fans, though when it comes to strik­ing fear into the hearts of your en­e­mies, Al­chemist Cloth­ing’s line of gar­ish T-shirts is no sub­sti­tute for Ham­mer pants.

Uma Thur­man in 2003’s Kill Bill Vol. 1. The score was com­posed by hip-hop star RZA, who also did Jim Jar­musch’s Ghost Dog: Way of the Samu­rai.

Ac­tor-di­rec­tor RZA, above, in The Man With the Iron Fists, which opens Fri­day but wasn’t pre-screened for crit­ics. Cee-Lo Green, left, sings his cover of "Kung Fu Fight­ing" for 2008’s Kung Fu Panda.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.