And with all that filming in all different parts of the world and social strata over the decades, it's only natural that some hip-hop would leak its way in. It's pretty rare, though - I suspect he's really not a fan - but it does happen in the occasional film.
It happens in a very minor way in 1990's Central Park. A 176 minute film centered entirely in an exterior NYC location? It would be impossible for it not to. But it's surprisingly repressed. Weddings, rallies, late-night clean-up crews, (non-hip-hop) concerts, even private meetings of the park's council in their own homes. There's a fun, short roller-skating scene where they';re rolling to Johnny Kemp's "Just Got Paid," But for actual hip-hop, you only really hear it in snippets of radios playing in the background... super short clips of Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock's "It Takes Two" and Run DMC's "Run's House." And most substantially, around the hour and ten minutes mark, there's a cool montage of park activity set to Doug E Fresh's "Keep Rising To the Top."
But I almost throw Central Park in there just to be completist. Of the three, only the Doug E Fresh clip really even lasts long enough to make much of an impression. But hip-hop plays a bigger role in these next two films.
Newcleus's "Jam On It." In a cleared cafeteria, little kids are attempting break-dancing and there's a DJ calling out over the record for everyone to get on the floor, etc. It goes on for several minutes, and then you think they're starting to transition out when they start showing close-ups of decorations and things; but then it comes right back to the party for Chilly B's verse. We get almost the entire song... taken out of context, it could practically be a music video for it.
There are even subtle narratives to be found on repeat watches if you pay careful attention... Early in the scene, we see a girl sitting at a table crying and a boy attempting to comfort her. Then, right near the end, we see the girl out dancing on the floor with that same boy.
And the Wiseman film that hip-hop plays the biggest part in is easily Public Housing. Focusing entirely on the Ida B. Wells Housing Development in Chicago in 1996. It's one of his most compelling films, exploring the aspects of life that film almost never looks at. And like Central Park, hip-hop is always surrounding the film, always ready to seep into the background soundtrack of its inhabitants daily life. There's a moment where they're having a small block party, with their boombox facing out the window, and somebody off-camera comments, "that's real music, not that electronic shit." But for all its little cameos, hip-hop stands out particularly in two scenes.
|Spot the Rap-A-Lot t-shirt!|
And the next moment is hip-hop's largest moment in a Wiseman film, and yet we don't actually hear any. Towards the end of Public Housing, there's a huge gathering outside. All the kids and half the adults are packed together, caught up in the excitement of a music video shoot that's come to be filmed in their projects. We basically never see the artist, and we never hear a note of the song. Just the crew in Berry Juice Records t-shirts trying to focus the excitement of the large crowd, a young man up above the fray on his camera mount, a young woman giving orders over a walkie-talkie. I've tracked down the song, and it turns out it's "A Better Day" by an obscure Chicago artist named Da Criminal, though you'd think he was a big time major label artist based on the scene in the film. But the film isn't interested in the rapper or the song; it's about the community and how this hip-hop event has changed their lives, at least for this one day.
These and almost all of Wiseman's other films (The Garden has been censored and nobody seems to care enough about Seraphita's Diary to release it) can be purchased direct from Wiseman's film company's website: zipporah.com. I recommend them all, especially his early and mid-90's work, and not just the films with rap scenes. :)