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It's been 30 years since the release of House Party, the teen rap comedy directed by Reginald Hudlin with Kid N Play. Over the past three decades, the popular film has spawned a whole franchise (with a scheduled reboot in progress), transformed Kid N Play into pop culture superstars (remember the cartoon?), Led to reunions and retrospectives, and made it a fixture on most lists celebrating classic noir films. Its unique timelessness: a film draped in black culture, an ode to black adolescence and a film that celebrates the universal and youthful release that hip-hop has always been able to provide.

The film was born from a 1983 short film that was shot and produced by Hudlin while he was still a Harvard student. In 1987, the Reggie brothers and Warrington Hudlin turned the short film into a full-length feature, presenting it at New Line Cinema, the film studio then primarily known for the horror series Nightmare On Elm Street. Looking to jump on the wave of the post-Spike Lee Black movie, the studio lit the movie. Originally written for the pop-rap duo DJ Grammy, Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, the main roles were rather attributed to their contemporaries Kid N Play, a pair of rhymes at the feet of the Queens fleet who enjoyed a series of rap hits directed by the Hurby blockbuster. Luv Bug Azor. A virtually unknown Martin Lawrence quickly joined the cast as an unhappy boyfriend of Kid N Plays, Bilalfresh made his first appearance on the big screen in the 1989 Lees classic Do The Right Thing.

While the films are directed by two women, Sidney (Tisha Campbell) and Sharane (A.J. Johnson) are at the center of romantic conflicts and their own semi-rivalry. The two actresses already knew each other when House Party started casting.

I had just come out of In Living Color, remembers Johnson at VIBE. (My lawyer) was also the lawyer for Reggie and Warrington Hudlin. He told me there was a movie he was representing for which I was perfect. They were looking for a dancer with brown skin, high energy, attitude, fun fun – and that's kind of where it started. When he organized my audition, it was actually a twinning for the roles Sidney and Sharane. At the time, Tisha was my friend but no longer my mentor. Because at that time, I was a dancer. I was doing little acting games, but mostly dancing. She said I got an audition for a movie called House Party! I said it too!, And she was like an omigod! It left at the same time!

On the set, Johnson admits that she didn't get the film initially. But she focused on the bond between her and the characters from Campbells.

Not at all! she said laughing when asked if she knew at the time that this project was special. I did not have humor. I did not live in projects, so I did not understand half of these lines and jokes. (But) Tisha and I create this friendship. So, because Tisha was the bride between the two of us, she was very strong in saying Lets create a friendship that other sisters will want to imitate.

The soul of House Party was the legend of the late comedy Robin Harris. As a Pop, Harris was the grumpy but hilarious father – trying to catch his finicky son, Kid, after the teenager sneaked in to attend shindig at Plays house. It would be Harris' biggest role, and unfortunately, the last. He died of a massive heart attack just days after the film was released in theaters. But the film became an important part of a legacy that continued into the decades after his death. The late John Witherspoon also makes a memorable appearance as an angry neighbor to numerous thieving stage appearances he would have in classic black comedies throughout the 1990s.

A box office success in the spring of 1990, House Party was a pioneer. After a decade of classic 80s teen movies like Weird Science and Pretty In Pink, movies that undermined the anguish of the majority but from a decidedly white point of view, here is a film telling a story from black teenage culture to the dawn of the 1990s. Critics praised and took note of the only African American lens from House Partys.

In 1990, the Los Angeles Times wrote:

Shot for 2.5 million dollars with an almost entirely black cast and a team that the Hudlins tabulate as 65% African-Americans, the film is loaded with maximum specific references – jokes, fashion, dance, music, language, products, politics – -to the black hip-hop subculture of adolescence. Combined with ethnic and on-board movies, and its raucous energy, it adds to a cultural richness rarely found in standard teen comedies.

Reggie Hudlin, then 28, thought authenticity is what universally resonates. The theory that we have always believed is that if you can make a film without cultural compromise, it will always have broad appeal. And, in fact, by diluting the (ethnic content) of the film, it becomes less interesting for all audiences.

By making the film, Hudlin and the actors were able to benefit from a multitude of experiences. The movie's iconic dance scene was invented by Johnson, who attended Spelman College in Atlanta and believed that no party could be a party without a dance battle. I came from a dance battlefield, she explains. I was in an HBCU. I promised Delta Sigma Theta Incorporated. So between getting into a sorority and being at Spelman, all I knew during the evenings was dance battles. When I got to the script and there was no dance battle, I told Reggie that I can't party without a dance battle! And he said well – let's see what it looks like.

Part of the reason that House Party resonated back then and continues to be is that kind of warm authenticity. Sure, its R rating is won, there is no shortage of steamy jokes, but that seems true to the experience of black teens in a way that the audience had not seen in a major film since Cooley High. These are young black people who are not sanitized, they face problems like police harassment, after all, but who are not necessarily at risk, and whose lives are not carefully divided into stereotypical boxes. The film shows you black children from middle class projects and suburbs and they don't seem so far apart from each other, geographically or culturally. It was filmed in Los Angeles but never looks like the same backdrop as Boyz N the Hood or Colors; it looks like this story could be anywhere in black america.

To make it my first real theatrical role, it spoils me, says Johnson. It was hard to do less than the collaborative energy that Reggie gave. It was very respectful and he honored each of our talents: he honored Martin's comedy; the comic timing in (co-star) Daryl Chill Mitchell; he honored the camaraderie and energy of the teenage girls between Tisha and me; he honored what Kid N Play had already established as Kid N Play, even off screen, and then he honored what he watched as we progressed through the film. Hed witnessed all of this. He was just there to feed more chemistry and more good times. After that, I had a hard time working with other directors who weren't as collaborative.

It is almost as if Reggie has given me permission to be the real artist that I was. A lot of directors, they tell you your brand, they tell you how to say a line and it's ok, it's the director's style. But because my first experience as a lead in a film was Reggie Hudlin, it was difficult for me to work with another director who was more restrictive.

In 2016, Lawrence told Collider: Well, I was only young and I was new to the game and I was so excited to be part of it all. I was just very happy and eager to start my career and let people know who I was. You know, deliver. Become someone to be reckoned with and that is why I was so excited at that time.

It is not difficult to understand why House Party still resonates. Everything from clothes to music, speaks of its time in a way that honors that moment; and with their honest portrayals of juvenile black exuberance, each generation of teens finds themselves in touch with the lovemaking on the screen. Beyond teenagers, it sounds like a love letter to black pop culture; it refers to everything from Dolemite routines to Hey Love R&B compilation ads (No, my brother you have to buy yourself) to P-Funk songs, with a kinetic soundtrack that includes R&B and force hip-hop from Full Force (who also appear as high school bullies in the film) and Public Enemy. This film was not afraid to be as black as possible, and it helped herald the wave of black cinema that would define the early 1990s.

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