ArtFilm / TVMusic

hip-hop’s relationship with 70’s martial arts films continues to inspire and push boundaries

April 27, 2018
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By CG*, AFROPUNK contributor

Without hesitation, this sage-faced man swung his metal detector wand like a baton adorned with a blade and black and gold adornments – stopping me in my tracks. I was in Northwest, Washington, D.C. The security were Kung Fu masters. Warner Theatre became the 36th Chamber of Shaolin.

RZA, the founding member of the Wu-Tang Clan brought the mothafuckin’ ruckus.I witnessed the RZA re-score the 1978
martial arts film, The 36th Chamber of Shaolin. He curated an experience that brought back memories of growing up in the
Bronx, where watching martial arts films with my father held a special place during my childhood. I’d practice the moves on my father, only for him to bust my ass. Wu-Tang videos and many other hip-hop artists played out of my sister and I’s room, often becoming the soundtrack to these cherished moments.

From my childhood days with my father to now, I’ve seen how hip-hop and martial arts mash-ups have evolved over the years. From trying to get find the glow like Bruce Leroy to watching Jet Li and DMX get to fisticuffs , I’ve witnessed this
combination attract a growing audience. The widely reaching audience is the result of pairing extraordinary movements with equally extraordinary with beats and rhymes. Witnessing how two art forms can complement each other so well – from different parts of the world – is an awe-inspiring experience. I’ve often been compelled to yell “oh snap” or a “woooo” in response to a complex volley of moves as I would a complex firing of rap battle metaphors. The “fuck him up”’s heard from the audience let me know I was not alone.

The RZA and his team certainly delivered. Each new score was by design – placed purposefully, capturing the essence of the plot, character personalities, and the pulse of the scene (there were even pauses for dramatic effect juxtapose to the characters narrations). It provided a subtle dialogue for the film, coloring significant themes such as collusion, consistency, and (a crowd favorite) combat, throughout. It began as the “Triumph ”

instrumental bursted from the speakers during the introductory choreography of Lau Kar-leung and performed by Gordon Liu , otherwise known in the film as San Te. . It was surreal to hear the police siren sample as San-Te escaped the pressures of his oppressive government. Every advisory was too stubborn to know – forcing San Te to “Bring the Pain ”

would be the worst decision they could make. His journey throughout the chambers of the Shaolin temple certainly made him very familiar with “C.R.E.A.M. ”

– this time, the “C” stands for challenge. San-Te’s resolute aim and perseverance after each challenge was perfectly paired with the determination recited in the hook of RZA’’s “Can’t Stop Me Now ” and the affirmation authored in “Its Yours ”.

RZA’s constant homage to hip-hop culture and the traditions celebrated in martial arts have contributed to the global exposure to the black community, young and old. Martial arts films were my earliest distinguishable relationship to exercising and exploring creativity from an international context. This kind of exposure is a direct result of the reimagining of these films, expressing how the artist identifies with this production, today.

RZA and artist like him are contributing to art and diversity in incredible ways.Through their exploration, they translate the
universal, indiscriminate nature of ideals such as perseverance, respect, justice, representation and innovation. Such an
investment in artistry is an investment in the future. He, too recognizes this significance, encouraging the audience to avoid
stifling their art – putting it out into the world such that someone, somewhere, can be inspired.

*CG is a modest multipotentialist, currently residing in The District. He aims to promote the pursuit of an extra-ordinary life by combining self-efficacy in practice with his love for food, music, and curating experiences. @_callmecg