EXCLUSIVE: Kid ‘N Play’s Christopher Martin Talks New Docu, LeBron James’ “House Party” Reboot & How Will Smith & Jazzy Jeff Were Almost Cast
It’s hard to forget classic black films like House Party and Class Act. Especially because of the cultural trends being displayed by Kid ‘n Play in the early to mid ’90s . The high top fades and the dance moves in the film, such as the popular Kick Step, made that era of hip hop memorable, with many stars today paying tribute to the hip-hop group through their clothing and haircuts.
In a recent interview with theJasmineBRAND, Christopher “Play” Martin, one-half of the iconic hip-hop duo, Kid ‘n Play, discussed his forthcoming documentary film highlighting background dancers, LeBron James’ House Party reboot and how Kid ‘n Play landed the House Party role over Will Smith and Jazzy Jeff!
theJasmineBRAND: Kid n Play are considered cultural icons in hip-hop and pop culture. You guys are considered to be legends. How does it feel to wear this title and how have you managed to stay relevant?
Christopher Martin: Well…. ‘Icons’ perhaps when it comes to a certain image that automatically represents a great time in Hip Hop history. An era mostly referred to as a golden era of Hip Hop. As far as ‘legends’ I’d rather say I’m still working on that.
Rumor has it that Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince (Will Smith) were first offered a deal to star in House Party. Could you tell us what really transpired and how Kid n Play ended up starring in the hit movies?
No rumor, but Reggie (the director) and Warrington (producer) Hudlin always wanted Kid and me to be the principal characters from day one. It was a business idea on the movie company’s part for Will and Jeff to perhaps play those roles due to their popularity at the time. But when one of the company executives decided to walk us out after a meeting, we had with them and saw the overwhelming reaction New York City kids gave us when we walked out of the building.
House Party is one of those films that never gets old. Did you all have any influence on discovering the talent such as Martin Lawrence and Bernie Mac, Tisha Campbell, to name a few? What is it about the film that you think resonates with the masses?
Well, we did strongly suggest Bernie Mac, Chris Tucker and a couple of others. Tisha, Martin, and others were the brilliance of Reggie and Warrington. It’s call collaboration…. I’ve always seen the magic being in an ensemble. It resonates because it relates to an extraordinary time. Each character represents and reminds people of a particular individual in their lives, in their crew. Special teenage moments and friendships. We hear those testimonies all the time.
You have a new documentary film titled “And I Danced,” highlighting background dancers. Can you tell us more about how the idea came about and what viewers are expected to see?
AND iDANCED is very special to me and hope for others. It’s my way of saying “thank you” to an exceptional group of people who helped Kid, myself and many other artists reach incredible success. I respect and genuinely appreciate other stories and projects that have exposed many to the elements of Hip Hop culture, but yet to have seen one that gives names and the incredible back stories. Those who contributed to the low and sometime no budget early Hip Hop and R&B videos now consider classics and went on to dance for the greats! Their stories are amazing, and I’m truly humbled that they shared them in this.
Describe the process of filming for “And I Danced” and how you were able to catch up with so many dancers from that time.
Well…. Lots and lots of patience. The project itself is about 10 years in the making. Being pregnant with the idea for about 4 years then after sharing the idea unintentionally with Portia Kirkland (a featured dancer in the documentary) she convinced me that I really needed to move on it. It just so happened I was about to embark on a 3-year tour that would place me in all the cities to find everyone. Dancers and choreographers Shane Johnson and Donielle Artese (now Co-producers) who had kept in touch with mostly everyone over the years helped me to organize the interviews that I executed as conversations instead. There’s literally no financial backing and investors with this project. All provided by the Lord through my pockets for this labor of love.
Why is it necessary for you to tell those stories about the dancers?
Because they earned it and deserved it. The documentary is about the women and men who danced and help make a lot of the 80s- 90s Rappers & Singers performance presentations exciting and unforgettable. From the earliest low budget Hip Hop videos to the kings and Queens of R&B, Pop and Hip Hop, their faces, presence and dance moves compelled thousands of music fans to watch Video Music Boxx, MTV, BET and more to record and rewind the videos over and over again! Christopher “Play” Martin travels from city to city to talk with many faces you would remember but didn’t really know. These are the dancers responsible for the videos, dance shows and images we enjoy today. Rap artist include LL Cool J, NWA, Salt ‘n Pepa, EPMD, Big Daddy Kane, Heavy D, Slick Rick, Queen Latifah, Kid n Play, Kwame, Kool Moe Dee, Naughty By Nature, MC Lyte, Chubb Rock, MC Hammer, Kool G Rap, Tribe Called Quest, Whodini and more had to have dancers like Saleema, Trinee, Kim J, Venus, Erin, Radiyah, Big Lez, Jossie, Shaik, IBM Dancers, Jennifer Melchor, Boogaloo Shrimp, Ali Shabazz & The Soul Brothers, Phendi, Scoob Lover, Shawn Bailey, Leg One & Two, Shane, Latisha, Tyrone Proctor, Auti Angel, Donielle, Carolyn, Darrin Henson, Aphro, Portia, Flex, I.O.U Dancers, Joyce Van Hook, Oliver, Omar, Cliff Love, Kiam, Doc Ice, Stevio, G Whiz, Goofy, Mr. Swoopster, Str8 Ahead, Heart & Soul, Carrie Ann Inaba and more as they share their remarkable stories and success in entertainment. Interviews with recording artist like Salt (Salt ‘n Pepa), Kid (Kid ‘n Play), Bell, Biv, Devoe, MC Lyte, Sisqo, Big Daddy Kane, Omarion and more talk about the dancer’s value and priceless influence. AND iDANCED sheds light on the issue of women’s roles and the image in Hip Hop today from what it was to today’s girls to women that are successful Mothers, Entrepreneurs, Producers, Writers, Community Leaders, Teachers “AND THEY DANCED”
I would love for this to turn into a lecture and maybe a workshop tour. I’d like for women to be inspired by the women featured in this on how they have triumphed in so many ways. For most of them, it all started by saying “I CAN DO THAT” and the rest is history! Dancing with all of the Hip Hop legendary, iconic and pioneers to Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, Madonna and Prince.
Do you feel dancing was a more respected craft compared to nowadays?
The late 80’s and 90’s is the platform for those to rock today. Today’s dancers are incredible, but it’s on the shoulders of these dance masters and pioneers.
News broke about Lebron James’ entertainment company producing a remake of House Party. What are your thoughts on this? Do you have any suggestions on a cast or any advice for them?
I have nothing but love for LeBron, and he’s undoubtedly expressed his passion for House Party and us from an Allstate commercial to hook his sons up with Kid ‘n Play haircuts. It’s a different era and time now, and things are very different. Basically, that’s what I’d suggest keeping in mind. He’ll be aight!
We know that you were considered as the more “wild” one back in the day but now have transformed your life into a positive journey. Talk to us about your trip and what events that led you to change your
For starters having no regard and respect for education, there was a later price to pay. With that expensive lesson, I’m a big advocate for education and try to express to all how essential knowledge of self and others is so important. God has saved my life and prayerfully use my lessons to contribute to the success of others. I’m like this…. “I may not be able to tell you what to do. But I can surely tell you what not to do!’
What are your thoughts on the current state of hip-hop? Do you have any favorite artists or groups?
I’m not really into as I was years ago because I’m back in school and the lab. Learning a lot about developing a comfortable, exceptional, unique style of cinematography I’ve had in this amusement park I call my mind. I’m very much into politics and other urgent matters that affect our lives. Hip Hop has grown up, we’re not in our parent’s homes anymore. We’re parents, educators, bankers, politicians, community leaders, ministers, and presidents. We have a new direction, and I gotta do my part…. There’s a time to be “Play,” and there are times I’m not.
Let us know where to expect to find the film And I Danced and any information on release date, screenings and more information.
ANDiDANCED.com is where you’ll get it all! Please check it out and subscribe…. We’d love the support.