What appears to be a straightforward 2015 RP Boo music video in fact contains a much longer history and narrative of community persistence, celebration, and a scene’s evolution. Directed by Wills Glasspiegel, the short doc is set to Boo’s eponymous track—produced first in 2005, but presented here in altered and updated form—and follows him, the K-Phi-9 dancers, The Era crew, and more as they move with delightful focus and intention down Martin Luther King Drive on the South Side of Chicago during the annual Bud Billiken Day Parade.
Following a route that’s remained unchanged since 1929 and forms the lyrical backbone of “Bangin’ on King Drive,” the Bud Billiken Day Parade is one of the oldest African-American parades in the US—cancelled in 2020 for the first time in 91 years due to Covid-19—with all-day festivities that bring together a variety of youth and community organizations, including fierce dance performances by local crews in a number of styles.
You get a taster of many in five minutes or less, as Glasspiegel cuts between drone footage that captures the overall atmosphere and a cornucopia of characters with magnetic charisma. RP Boo appears with his usual infectious smile, but the real stars are the dancers: folks in the crowd, The Era crew, and especially the K-Phi-9 dancers, who are seen prepping their looks in a hair salon, wearing neon tutus and bow-ties with smart red tops emblazoned with the group’s name, and finally busting serious moves both synchronized and solo.
There’s a palpable joy in these performances, alongside markers of wider social struggle—a “Fight for $15” sign nestled in a statue’s arm appears and is gone in a flash—and recognition of all of the musical and movement innovations that developed along these streets. As the film’s director put it in a 2015 interview with Emilie Friedlander, “It’s as if the whole history of footwork is made visible at the Bud.”