Blondie’s 1981 hit ‘Rapture’ is many things; for starters, the music video was the first rap video ever broadcast on MTV. However, looking back 40 years on, the most abundantly clear dynamic at play is how quintessentially ’80s the video, and the song for that matter.
Opening up to a drum machine and funky bass rhythm, the video shows ‘Voodoo God’ dancer William Barnes busting a move on the streets of Manhattan, before cutting to a sultry Blondie dancing at a particularly arty and notably drink-less party.
Filmed in the East Village, the video inadvertently captures one of the most impactful art scenes of the ’80s. A central figure amidst the bourgeois fashionista Manhattan world was the American artist, of Haitian and Puerto Rican descent, Jean-Michel Basquiat. As part of the graffiti duo, SAMO, Basquiat became an icon in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where the cultural influences of rap punk and street art coalesced, heavily influencing the aesthetic of the decade to come.
His appearance was not due to some sort of mystic foresight on the part of Blondie in a bid to capture the art scene of the forthcoming era, but rather a simple twist of fate. Had Grandmaster Flash bothered to show up to filming then it would have been him that Debbie Harry approached, with his finger over the record needle.
Basquiat cuts a shy and retiring figure in the video which is once again not through directorial intent. Harry recalls meeting Basquiat for the first time and remarks that he “was very sort of unspoken, really.”
‘Rapture’, taken from the album Autoamerican, would go on to reach number one in the US charts and remain at the top spot for two weeks, leaving a legacy as the unexpected track that paved the way for hip-hop to break into the mainstream.
Basquiat would go on to be one of the biggest artists to come out of the neo-expressionism movement, lending his politically subversive works, before his life was tragically cut short when he passed away from a heroin overdose aged just 24.
This is not the only direct contribution that Basquiat would make to the art world. In more recent times The Strokes would use and extract of his work to form the cover art for their latest album The New Abnormal.