In retrospect, the early- to mid-1980s were a halcyon era for hip-hop cinema. Films like 1983's Wild Style and 1984's Beat Street not only helped immortalize the genre in all of its iterations—from break-dancing and DJing, to graffiti and fashion—but they also spread the message of hip-hop far beyond the confines of its birthplace, New York City, to the rest of the country.
Yet one film during that time period epitomized the art of rapping better than all of the other flicks: 1985's Krush Groove. The movie was a fictional account of the rise of rap behemoth Def Jam Records. To impart authenticity, many of the label's actual power players starred in the film, including Run-DMC, Rick Rubin, LL Cool J, and The Beastie Boys. Although Krush Groove was ostensibly about hip-hop's first super-group, Run-DMC, it was an off-label trio of charismatic Brooklyn teens who stole the show: The Fat Boys.
"They were just so visual," says Kurtis Blow, a hip-hop pioneer and one of Krush Groove's actors. "[The director] Michael Schultz saw how they were colorful, and how they could be an asset to the movie...that's what got them their role."
While The Fat Boys—which consisted of Prince Markie Dee, Kool Rock Ski, and the late Buff Love—weren't originally a part of the film's plans (Blow says that the movie was initially to be entitled The King of Rap, with him as the star; Schultz claims he wanted to make a documentary highlighting several groups), they eventually became a central focus of the production thanks to their on-camera magnetism.
As Krush Groove went on to mythologize Def Jam's ascension from an NYU dorm room, The Fat Boys' experienced their own remarkable rise along with it, transforming from overweight class clowns into record deal-making rappers.
"For about 18 or 24 months, The Fat Boys were right there with Run-DMC as one of the biggest names in the genre," Complex editor-in-chief Noah Callahan-Bever says. "Obviously, part of that was the kitsch of their gimmick....[But] they were really one of the ambassadors of the culture—not only to mainstream America, but to urban America outside New York. Frankly, they were stars because of [Krush Groove]."
Their most iconic scene in the movie involved a feast at an all-you-can-eat buffet, set to a catchy, Kurtis Blow-produced rap song. "All You Can Eat," which later became its own standalone music video, was a transcendent moment that captured the trio's essence. It worked in part because of how effortless they looked on screen: Markie Dee and Kool Rock Ski filling their trays with food while rapping, and Buff beatboxing with flare in between stuffing his face. Throughout the video, the crew piles their plates high with everything from pizza to entire logs of cold cuts (which, for the record, the newly opened Times Square Sbarro location didn't even carry), demolishing everything in sight before dining and dashing, much to the dismay of the cashier. Despite the group's lack of acting experience, the chemistry and charisma they showed off throughout Krush Groove—especially during "All You Can Eat"—earned them another acting gig in the 1987 film Disorderlies.
But the influence of "All You Can Eat" extends far beyond it playful charms. Firstly, it established a relationship between food and hip-hop decades before rappers like Action Bronson spun their gastronomy into cooking shows. Even its subliminal branding (Schultz says it was purely serendipitous that Sbarro was hungry for publicity andw illing to offer up its store) paved the way for men like Diddy and Ludacris to align themselves with food and drink companies. Secondly, Schultz credits his movie for bringing much needed diversity to the film industry. "I wanted a 100% black crew but I ended up with 80%," says Schultz. "The reason for doing that was to show that there were qualified black crew people that weren't being hired." And lastly, thanks to its aesthetic and wit, it created a lasting impression on artists who would go on to become hip-hop's leading superstars.
"I remember my mom took us to go see Krush Groove at the Greenbrier Mall," recalls Big Boi, one half of legendary Atlanta rap group Outkast. "Back then we had the bubble vests. Me and my little brothers got the silver markers and we graffitied the motherfuckers. My momma beat the shit out of us. [But] I loved that movie. [It showed] how Def Jam was booming. That’s [the label] where I ended up putting out my two solo records. It was like a dream come true."
In honor of this overlooked moment in hip-hop and food history, we spoke with the people most heavily involved with the film, including the surviving Fat Boys members, Prince Markie Dee and Kool Rock Ski (Buff Love passed away in 1995 from cardiac arrest); director Michael Schultz; and the group's producer, Kurtis Blow. They've detailed not only how the song came together, but also the filming of the now-iconic clip.
Here's the oral history behind the making of The Fat Boys' "All You Can Eat" music video.
On Getting the Fat Boys into Krush Groove
Kool Rock Ski: I remember we were on the tour bus one night during the Fresh Fest [a traveling hip-hop festival] and there was a guy who had out a pad, writing down what we were doing. He was there to document all of our moves—he was also writing for the movie Krush Groove. We were like, "What's Krush Groove?" And he was like, "It's a hip-hop movie." The writer of the movie took a liking to us, and we started hanging out a lot. Next thing you know, we were in the movie.
Michael Schultz We came up with the idea that would tell a story of the rise of Def Jam. But we [took] Russell [Simmons] and Rick Rubin's story and blended that with The Fat Boys trying to get into the game.
Kool Rock Ski: [On the surface] the movie was about Run-DMC. But it was really the movie that brought everything together to showcase what we did. People were saying that The Fat Boys and Run-DMC didn’t belong on the same stage. That’s when people started to show their true colors. The interesting thing was that it had to work. If those tours didn’t work, then it wouldn’t have been able to bring about a whole array of things. [It was] the marketing scheme of hip-hop that broke down the doors. Once Krush Groove came out [and invented that scheme], that was when the flood gates opened.
On the Development of the Song “All You Can Eat”
Prince Markie Dee: After Charles [Stettler] became our manager, he took us directly to Europe. And we established a strong fan base there. We got pretty good, and when we came back to the States, we hooked up with [producer] Kurtis Blow. Kurtis gave us our signature sound.
Kurtis Blow: We wrote that because they [Schultz and writer Ralph Farquhar] designed a scene around it. The concept was already written. So Michael Schultz and the [Fat Boys'] manager Charlie Stettler came to me and we talked about this song. It’s downtown Manhattan and they go inside and order up all this food and the concept was all you can eat, like a buffet. They gave me the story and I designed the actual song.
Michael Schultz: Sbarro had just opened up their store in Times Square. They had big signs saying "All You Can Eat." We were like, "Hey: Fat Boys, All You Can Eat—let's write a song off that."
Prince Markie Dee: I can remember being in the studio and Kurtis was like, “Yo, I got this idea." Then he was like, "You know the buffet, the all-you-can-eat buffets?” He started singing, “All you can eat,” and then he played the beat for us. We were like, "Yo, this beat is crazy!" So I started writing the song, and then me and Kool Rock just started going back and forth on it.
Kurtis Blow: What’s unique about it is that I am part of the chorus. I sing the chorus along with the rest of the guys. But if you listen to the chorus, it sounds like it is predominantly me. I don’t know what happened that day, if it was the mix or something. But all I hear is Kurtis Blow. [Laughs]
Prince Markie Dee: Normally we’ll write a song a couple of times—nah that doesn’t go well, nah that’s not right, nah that doesn’t rock well—but that was the one song we wrote in just one time. I said to Kool Rock, “We’ll be going back and forth here, here, and here, and you say this part and I’ll say this part." Then bang—we laid it down one time and we were done with it. We thought that it was a dope-ass record. It being included in the movie is what made it crazy.
On Selecting the Times Square Sbarro For Filming
Prince Markie Dee: That was the last scene filmed for the entire movie.
Kool Rock Ski: All I remember about going into the video itself was being picked up at the hotel and being told we were going to Sbarro.
Prince Markie Dee: Everything that had to do with the movie—from the locations we filmed at, to the choice of restaurant—all of that was discovered by the scouting team, the producers, and the director, Michael Schultz. Basically, all we knew was from the script was that we were going to show up at a restaurant and we’re going to do X, Y, and Z.
Michael Schultz: Once we got our location guy to make sure we could work at the place, it worked out. It was one of those things [where] they wanted exposure because it was a new business, we wanted it for the movie, and they knew that the film would give it that exposure. [They said] as long as you can do it at night, you can use it.
Price Markie Dee: We were supposed to walk down the street to enter the restaurant, but there was this subway station. The director was like, we’re going to walk out of the train station and enter Sbarro. At the last minute, they changed the script for us to enter Sbarro that way. The place was closed for the whole day and everyone in there was extras.
On the Food Shown in the Video
Prince Markie Dee: We had to sit down and listen to the director Michael Schultz [when we got there]. He said, "Guys, this is what we’re going to do: Fill up the table with chicken wings, pizza, as much food as we can fit." Then he said, “You guys are going to eat as much as you can.”
Kool Rock Ski: We had a lot of food, but it was all cold. I thought to myself, are they really going to have us eat all this food?! [Laughs]
Prince Markie Dee: We thought that this had to be the stupidest shit ever. But looking back at it, that movie was done with a purpose. Those guys actually filming the movie, they knew [what they were doing].
Michael Schultz: [It was] like those food commercials [where] they had these spit buckets. At first the guys wanted to eat the food for real. They refused to use the spit bucket because they didn't understand how you could not just eat. And we were like, "No, you'll be dead in two hours!" Right by the fourth scene they just noticed that they had ten more hours left to shoot. They were like, "Where are the buckets?"
Prince Markie Dee: Everything that was [eaten in the scene/music video] came from Sbarro. The salami, the ham, and the hanging stuff didn't. Everything that looked off-the-wall outrageous was stuff that they added to the restaurant for show. But it wasn’t actual stuff they sold. Like, they tried to give it that Italian flare.
Michael Schultz: We wanted to add more atmosphere [than] what the actual store had. We kind of took some things from an Italian deli and just hung it. The stuff that we hung was basically apart of their store. We made it a feast.
On the Actual Shooting of the Music Video
Kool Rock Ski: We started laughing and just having fun. The director kept cutting the scene because we kept laughing.
Prince Markie Dee: Honestly, it was just easy [to film that scene/music video]. The whole thing was cake, gucci. It's like, alright, we’re going to rap, walk down a line, and see what happens. We just busted our verse and whatever—it came natural. I remember doing that take like six and seven times. It was different every time.
Michael Schultz: That's true! They didn't need much coaching.
Prince Markie Dee: [Michael Schultz] told us when he stops running the cameras, [we needed to] put as much food in ours mouths as we can, then he's going to stop. Then, these three guys are going to bring us buckets and we're going to spit the food out in the bucket. Then, he's going to roll again, then we're going to eat some more.
Kool Rock Ski: Krush Groove had things in there that were hot for a while, [but] it was about showing off the culture. It had to work and lay down the foundation [for how] hip-hop can be what it is today. With rap you have two to three months to have a good record—then they go to the next one. [But] our place in hip-hop history [still] isn’t recognized. We weren’t put in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but Run-DMC and others were. Let’s be honest: If it wasn’t for some of our songs, hip-hop wouldn’t be where it’s at.
PMD: Making the movie led to making records. At the time, we didn’t see it becoming an iconic film. We didn’t think people would be watching 20 or 30 years later. But it had an impact. It brought rap even further, to places where we didn’t do shows at, places where we didn’t perform, the venues that couldn't afford the tours or whatever. Those people and those cities experienced it that way.