One of the standout films from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival was All the Streets Are Silent, a documentary about the intersection between skateboarding and hip-hop in New York in the 1980s and Nineties. On paper, 1990s East Coast hip-hop has been dissected ad infinitum in countless books, TV shows and films — for a certain age, the culture defined their teenage years more than anything else.
But director Jeremy Elkin, a veteran of skate films who grew up (and continues to be) obsessed with hip-hop, finds fresh material in this doc that combines his personal story of moving to New York with a post-Warhol era of the city in which the rise of pioneers like DJ Premier, Pete Rock and Large Professor (the latter of which scored the film) coincided with now-ubiquitous streetwear brands Zoo York and Supreme.
Elkin draws from the scene’s usual hip-hop players — Fab 5 Freddy, Stretch Armstrong, Bobbito Garcia — streetwear icons like the late Keith Hufnagel and cultural mainstay misfits like Clayton Patterson to dissect, revive and romanticize the culture and beloved defunct venues like Mars nightclub, where a panoply of various groups would bond over the latest hip-hop.
In this exclusive clip, New York native and Kids star Rosario Dawson discusses how a worldwide culture formed among impoverished New York City neighborhoods. “There was always hip-hop around because that was blasting from boomboxes everywhere,” Dawson says. “These were your people; this was your community. It was always home … People were coming from all around the world for the culture of it. There was always this idea that this was such a depressed area and that nothing really good could come out of it.”
Narrator and Zoo York co-founder Eli Gesner also talks about the cultural transition from the 1980s art world into the next decade. “As the Eighties came to a close and Warhol, Basquiat, Haring and that whole generation died off, they left a void in the city,” he says. “But New York City is great at regenerating itself. So for kids like me, hip-hop was everything. That’s all we ever listened to.”
All the Streets Are Silent also features Darryl McDaniels, Kool Keith, Kid Capri, Moby, A$AP Ferg and is currently open in New York. It’s set to expand nationally on Friday.