Friday, 1 January 2016

Oliver: Juvenile Committee - Flipside (5 January 1992)

John Peel was not a noted film buff. After playing a track called The Sermon by The Jimmy Smith Trio on 2 September 2003, he told us that the selection came from the soundtrack of a 1964 film called The Swinging Set aka Get Yourself a College Girl. Peel hadn't seen it, indeed, "You'd be astonished at some of the films I've never seen".

I don't know yet whether Peel ever saw Ernest R. Dickerson's early 1992 film, Juice, but his decision to open up his 5/1/92 show with Flipside by Juvenile Committee was an inspired one, not least because it pretty much lays out the story of the film in under 4 and a half minutes.

Juice is set in Harlem, New York and introduces us to 4 friends: Quincy aka Q. (Omar Epps), Raheem     (Kalil Kain), Steel (Jermaine "Huggy" Hopkins) and Bishop (Tupac Shakur).  They're not quite a gang when we meet them, mainly because their priorities are different: Q wants to become a DJ, Raheem would like to get back with the mother of his child, Steel wants to be a street face but lacks the wardrobe for it and Bishop? Well he wants the "juice".  What these guys call power and influence, but most of all, he wants to stop running: from the police, from other gangs, from their responsibilities and lack of opportunity - "All we do is run.  I feel like we're in a Goddamned track team!"  If crime will help them get the juice, then Bishop is all for it.  Things come to a head when Raheem and Bishop persuade Steel and Q to help them rob a grocery store, using Q's appearance in a Mixxmaster Massacre DJ contest at a local club (run by Queen Latifah) as a cover.  Needless to say, things do not run as smoothly as hoped and the night sees one of the gang move to the Flipside described in this joint and after that, things can never be the same among them again.

It's a really good movie which avoids glamorising its subject and shows that at street level, the search for the juice can be immensely damaging - it can cost people their friends, their sanity and their humanity.  Here's the evidence.

The soundtrack was put together by former Public Enemy alumni, Hank Shocklee and the Bomb Squad and does a fabulous job of reflecting the tone of the film rather than just being a grab-bag of tracks.  Flipside features throughout both in complete and cut up form, its refrain of "He wanted all the juice" serving as an ongoing chorus to the action.

Video courtesy of kanaloa92.

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