‘SBX! Holding Down The Tradition’ – Directed by Jun Ohki

Been searching for a DVD of this for a friend, but it looks like the 2005 documentary(?) from Jun Okhi is getting pretty hard to come by. Still unsure how to categorise what it is, but SBX! Holding Down The Tradition is a brilliant 30 minutes of NY orientated hip-hop viewing. A totally different take on the whole “back-in-the-day” rap legends thing that’s been done to death (often very one-sided), SBX! couldn’t feel more natural, and maybe because it just stays on the surface area.

Despite it’s release date, SBX! is focussed on golden-era hip-hop; and within that features the finest lyricists and technically dope mic fiends from the Bronx. The films is pieced together with dug-out archive, big tracks and a casual “point-and-shoot” approach that makes it all click for the viewer. As Okhi’s film-school graduation year project, SBX! possibly couldn’t have been made any other way, as what makes the film properly different is this idealistic art-student approach.

Not a documentarian, Okhi set out with the idea to create “a sort of a long form music video/sort of a musical sort of video” that blended narrative and musical spontaneity with Bronx hip-hop culture. The faux-radio station interview set-up with Edan cutting and rhyming, before passing the mic duties to Dave Tompkins interviewing AG, D-Flow and Party Arty in one shot is awesome. They then talk a bit about Ghetto Dwellers history before Party Arty starts on some verses, closing out an amazing sequence that’s been burned in my brain since first viewing.

Okhi’s connections to the D.I.T.C. crew came from back-in-the day when eh was living at DJ Muro’s, essentially becoming the translator for the legendary digging DJ to converse with Lord Finesse and AG when on tour and working together. He kept some members in the loop from idea to creation, and in turn they let him direct them to get a unique end product. SBX! couldn’t have been made by anyone else or at any other time during the scene’s evolution or the participant’s careers, it’s a peerless offering if far from from perfect.

Throughout the research process and VHS digging Jun Okhi also turned up a piece of battered footage that would become synonymous with SBX! and echo across the worldwide scene. The Percee P vs Lord Finesse street battle from 1989 is probably only second to Kool Moe Dee vs Busy Bee in terms of notoriety, and was uncovered as unspooled reel by Okhi, who took on the responsibility of rescuing it and digitising it for us. The scene, shot by a local barber, features about halfway through, and is recreated / rematched in the present day (2003) as the final closing sequence; big moment from two legends.

Got to say as well, props to Edan as always. He may have been comparatively silent since Beauty and The Beat in 2005 and the Echo Party project in 2009 – but SBX! is further proof that he’s been KILLING it since back in the day. if you’ve seen him go live as well then you’ll know what I mean.

Big ups all involved in this project, especially the rhyme greats who dropped their guard and allowed the film to be made in this style.