“The Breaks” Is Worth All Of Your Time
The One Where A Tape Is The McGuffin
There’s a scene towards the end of the first episode of VH1’s The Breaks where our main character, Nicole, is doing her best to juggle several balls in the air. She’s trying to introduce her boss to a rapper/drug dealer she desperately wants him to sign while also appeasing said rapper/drug dealer by getting back his demo tape. The former proves to be simple but the latter? Not so much. DJ Chuck Chillout has the tape and during a brief conversation between he and Nikki, Chuck breaks the unfortunate news that the tape is in his car. In any other show, this would be the point where they go to his car, get the tape, and everything gets wrapped up in a neat little package.
Unfortunately for Nikki and whomever else it may concern, Chuck let his cousin borrow the car and once he crossed the border into New Jersey, the car was stolen.
I really wanted to avoid this but, these are the breaks.
It’s a scene that could read false and reek of coincidence; a ridiculous way to further the plot and increase the drama. But it works here because if you lived in the ’90s, you know how notorious New Jersey was for carjackings and even without that knowledge, the show does a such a great job at building the world around its characters that somebody being randomly robbed or worse is completely possible. That one scene illustrates why The Breaks is a winner.
For those who’ve gotten this far with no clue of the show or who Chuck Chillout is or why any of this matters, The Breaks is based on a VH1 movie of the same name and follows three friends navigating New York’s burgeoning rap scene in 1990. Nikki (Afton Williamson) is working with a management team doing that now wants to become a label, David (David Call) is doing his best to push Hip Hop on radio stations that have no desire to play that “noise,” and DeeVee (Tristan “Mack” Wilds) is an aspiring DJ who truly believes he’s found the next Rakim in drug dealer Ahm (Antoine Harris). Each of their stories are compelling in their own right but it’s the way they’re connected that gives the show a perfect rhythm. The sense of urgency each of them feels is not only due to the writing and acting, but with the elephant in the room only a few are willing to openly state: Nobody knows how far this Hip Hop thing can go. This is before rappers were the biggest stars in the world and could influence pop culture on this blue spinning ball with the flick of a finger. For the characters on the show, there truly is no tomorrow and it’s felt in every action and every word spoken or not spoken.
That urgency is just one aspect giving The Breaks its authenticity. It helps to have historical figures, like the aforementioned Chuck Chillout, be a part of this world as well. No, it’s not the actual Chuck or Special Ed playing on-camera versions of themselves, but the actors are damn near spitting images of their real-life counterparts and I’m sure they won’t be the only “star” cameos the show has up its tracksuit sleeves.
Bottom line, if you’re a fan of this genre, whether you lived through the ’90s, want to get a little knowledge on the subject, or just want to see a good show with a seldom seen point of view, The Breaks is for you. If none of that piques your interest, then at least tune in to see Method Man play DeeVee’s straight-laced, protective, hardworking dad. Seeing Meth, a former drug dealer with a great flow and a great delivery, reprimand his son for working with a drug dealer with a “great flow and a great delivery” is incredibly ironic. But like all the other parts of the show that works, it feels real. And for a show about the ’90s, keeping it real is the only way to keep it.