Wild Style @ 25: Fab 5 Freddy Video Retrospective

We tried to get at Fred “Fab 5 Freddy” Brathwaite, for real we did. But he never got back. There is no love lost though. When the foundations of Hip-Hop were being laid, Fab 5 was there as participant and orchestrator, hob nobbing it up with the likes of Basquiat, LEE Quinones and even Blondie. As we continue our look at Wild Style’s 25th anniversary, we must include Fab 5, who not only appeared in the film but also played a critical role in its conception and creation. Few people can live to the title of Hip-Hop renaissance man but Fab 5 truly embodies the description. Here we look at one the many facets of this originator, the music videos he has directed. Here are eight of our favorites. Kool G. Rap featuring Biz Markie and Big Daddy Kane “Erase Racism”Ah, rappers standing up for something. The softer, more social side of The Juice Crew came up as G. and Kane pushed for cultural unity, while Biz Markie crooned away in classic booger-pickin’ form. This is a great look at New York City stoop culture, and who better to show kickin’ it than the guy who kicked it with nearly everybody? Somebody put this classic on YouTube!

EPMD “Strictly Business”This video served as a link from the early ’80s to the later part of the decade, with its minimalism, sprinkled with an assortment of cuts. The matching outfits and animated delivery would become a staple of following outfits, a spin in what was presented years earlier with Run-DMC. Maybe Fab will get a call to do a video in the upcoming, and desperately needed EPMD (umteenth) reunion album.

Blondie “Rapture”This video features Jean-Michel Basquiat painting live in the background, as Fab appears (and gets a Deborah Harry lyrical shout-out) in this groundbreaking crossover move. This video captures a vignette of the Downtown early ‘80s setting that witnessed Hip-Hop dabbling with Punk, prompting classic singles such as Malcolm McLaren’s “Buffalo Gals” and The Cold Crush Brothers’ “Punk Rock Rap.”

Nas “One Love”The greatest jail rap song ever. This video matches the lyrics letter-perfect, as Freddy’s moving camera captures scenes from inside and beyond the walls. The video introduced many viewers to the visuals that Nasir was talking about. Years later, the opening sequence would be used against Nas in his epic battle with Jay-Z.

Snoop Dogg “Who Am I? (What’s My Name)”Freddy headed West and connected with the Snoop D-O-double G for some illy at the time special effects. Yes, Hov “co-opted” the intro on “Jigga My N***a” in case you’re a total fool and never realized. The morphing dog to man images remain one of the greatest motions of cinematography in the rap medium.

Gang Starr “Just To Get a Rep”Despite DJ Premier hailing from Texas and Guru from Beantown, perhaps no group elicits pure NYC boom-bap like Gang to the Starr. In this full clip, Fab Five went with a grainy, gray toned aesthetic that captured the Gotham wildness of the early 90s. After all, stick up kids were out to tax. Shout to Melachi the Nutcracker (a years late “pause” now granted) for getting his Russell Crowe on.

Brand Nubian “Wake Up (Reprise in the Sunshine)”Although Fab holding down a gig as a host on Yo MTV Raps, the then video network gave this video no love. Nevertheless it got much rotation on local channels—peace to Video Music Box—and outlets like The Box, which helped spread the Now Rule teams pro-Black, 5 Percent Nation drenched bars of verbal righteousness.

Boogie Down Productions “My Philosophy”Despite the tragic passing of comrade Scott La Rock to a senseless beef, KRS-One went on to release By Any Means Necessary, ensuring the DJs memory remain alive. This black and white entry captures KRS maturing from battle hungry upstart to a focused MC with a mission. Fab made sure to show that the posse from The Bronx was thick.