By the end of the Summer of Love in 1967, the Bronx was a warzone overrun by gangs and violence like a real-life scene from The Warriors. The recently released documentary Rubble Kings explains how the warring sets made peace in the Seventies and paved the way for the birth of hip-hop. The first five minutes of the film, which is now available as part of the BitTorrent Bundle below, are streaming above.
The story begins with Carlos “Karate Charlie” Suarez and “Yellow” Benji Melendez, who came together to form a gang called the Ghetto Brothers (Melendez later went on to front a Latin funk group of the same name). Melendez had attempted to send fellow member Cornell “Black Benjie” Benjamin to make peace with other gangs in 1971, only to find out he had been murdered by rival gangs.
Rather than allow things to escalate to a full-blown gang war, the Ghetto Brothers brought their rival factions together to agree on what became known as the Hoe Avenue Peace Meeting – a peace treaty that stuck and created a less hostile environment in the area. As a result of the treaty, crews that once solved their differences with fighting and violence settled beef with dancing, rapping, DJing and graffiti battles that would foment the early seeds of hip-hop.
“Hip-hop culture was birthed from gang culture,” Rubble Kings executive producer David Kennedy tells Rolling Stone. “The competitive spirit in hip-hop, whether it’s rapping, breaking or [spreading] graffiti all comes from the roots of gang culture, and how the gangs were territorial. Most of the founding fathers of hip-hop were ex–gang members.”
Rubble Kings Trailer
Inspired by the Ghetto Brothers’ story, director Shan Nicholson worked on Rubble Kings over the course of eight years, digging up archival footage and photographs. Jim Carrey co-produced the movie, and John Leguizamo narrated it. In addition to the Ghetto Brothers’ founders, other interview subjects in the film include late New York City Mayor Ed Koch, Afrika Bambaataa and Kool Herc.
“New York City was in the midst of the worst financial crisis in decades,” Kennedy says. “Social services were cut and the police department was struggling with the ensuing crime wave that was gripping the city. Although sometimes violent, the gangs that came up in the Seventies were often the real law of the land. They policed their neighborhoods and were often the real cohesion in the community.”
The film is now available via BitTorrent. The Bundle also includes high-res photos and a poster of the movie.