n 1986, DJ and journalist, Bram van Splunteren pitched a series of music documentaries to Dutch public broadcaster VPRO. Inspired by hearing the Beastie Boys’ ‘Rock Hard’, he suggested one of the episodes should investigate rap music and the new sound coming from the next generation of hip-hop producers. His resulting documentary, Big Fun in the Big Town is the perfect snapshot of hip-hop music on the cusp of its so-called golden era, with almost everyone featured – from Run DMC to LL Cool J, Doug E. Fresh, and Schoolly D – a major force in hip-hop’s sample-based new school.
Biz Markie and Roxanne Shante perform ‘Def Fresh Crew’, super-producer Marley Marl spins for Mr. Magic’s Rap Attack radio show, while Grandmaster Flash shows off his scratching skills. In another moment that emphasizes the transitory nature of the fast-moving culture, Flash takes interviewer Marcel Vanthilt to an abandoned venue that once thrived with hip-hop parties.
Later, Suliaman El Hadi of The Last Poets bemoans the ego-trippin’ that makes up the majority of mid-80s rap music. He calls for political insight in rap lyrics, unwittingly anticipating the militant onslaught delivered by Public Enemy, then only months away from releasing their debut album. Screened once on Dutch TV in 1986, Big Fun in the Big Town all but disappeared from the hip-hop canon until distributor Five Day Weekend released a fab DVD package in 2012.