The Warriors in real life — Bombed-out buildings, empty blocks, rampant fighting – NYC was rough.

New York in the 1960’s and 70’s was dark. Economic downturn, corruption and white flight had crushed the city’s social services and turned it into a wasteland. Gangs were widespread, gang culture was flourishing, and tourists were advised to stay away from the city.

Rubble Kings is a new doc that tells the story of how hip hop was vital to the truce that ended the near-apocalyptic level of gang violence in New York during the 1960’s-70’s.

Using interviews with hip-hop pioneers like Afrika Bambaataa (an ex-Black Spade gang leader) and Cool Herc, as well as unseen archive footage of street gangs, director Shan Nicholson looks at the mayhem that inspired cult film The Warriors. The film tracks life in New York during that period: the crime and the music.

Nicholson, who’s also a DJ and music producer, began research for the film after finding Power Fuerza, a record by Latin funk/rock band The Ghetto Brothers on sale for $1,000 at a record store. “Yellow” Benji Melendez was founding member of The Ghetto Brothers, who he named after his gang. The Ghetto Brothers were behind the 1971 Hoe Avenue Peace meeting – the unruly summit meeting recreated in The Warriors – where over 100 Bronx gang members negotiated a peace agreement. That crossover between music and street gangs became the film’s focus.

“The competitive spirit in hip-hop, whether it’s rapping, breaking or [writing] 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,” the film’s executive producer David Kennedy told Rolling Stone.

The film was made over seven years and released through a $50,000 Kickstarter campaign. Rubble Kings is available to watch on Netflix, who have announced they’ll be doing a series on the gangs featured in the film this year.

Rubble Kings is out on DVD in the UK, February 8.

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