Rembert Explains the ’80s: ‘City of Crime’ Music Video From Dragnet

Welcome back to our series Rembert Explains the ’80s. Every so often, we’ll e-mail 25-year-old Rembert Browne a video from the 1980s that he hasn’t seen. Rembert will write down his thoughts as he’s watching the video, then we’ll post those thoughts here. This week’s installment was picked by Rembert (as spotted by this tweet from rapper/producer El-P): the “City of Crime” music video from Dragnet. If you have an idea for a future episode of Rembert Explains the ’80s, e-mail us at hollywood@grantland.com.

0:01 Interesting …

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0:04 AHHHHHHHHH

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0:07 TOM HANKS, RUNNNNNNNN

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That acronym is pretty incredible, though. Better than FATCOLA (First American Tire Company Of Los Angeles)? Close, but no.

0:08 Very excited to learn what Tom Hanks and Dan Aykroyd will be doing in this video, especially since it says “MCA Records,” which hints at a song. Which would be odd.

0:09 Oh no.

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Dan Aykroyd is rapping. Oh no. No no no.

0:14 AHHHHHHHHHH

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I’m not screaming because these two creatures are about to destroy this young lady. I’m horrified because Tom Hanks just started rapping. And his Beastie Boys impression is causing his voice to sound higher than FACE.

0:17 Why did they do this?

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0:22 This back-and-forth rap makes me never want to have another one-on-one conversation. Doesn’t seem worth it anymore.

0:26 This bass thumps, though. BUT STILL. WHAT ARE THEY EVEN RAPPING ABOUT? WHERE ARE THEY?

0:31 OK, now my sadness has just turned to confusion.

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I know of Dragnet. I thought they were cops that arrested humans. What are all these life-size rams doing locked up in a police station? I hope this is addressed in the lyrical gifts that we are soon to receive from Dan and Tom.

0:39 Ignore the rap.

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CHOREOGRAPHY ALERT, STARRING DAN AYKROYD AND TOM HANKS.

0:45 And now the rams, who I thought were all getting thrown in jail, are dancing behind them, of course, with their hands behinds their backs, because they’re handcuffed, of course.

0:54 This is better than Thriller.

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1:00 Before we get into the second verse, the lyrics that have been hip-hop rapped thus far:

Dan Aykroyd:
See that, Streebek? We’re just in time
We have stumbled into a major crime

Tom Hanks:
They’ve got the girl all fright
Now that’s not nice
I think she is the subject of a sacrifice

Aykroyd:
Buddy, we’re putting this party on ice

Hanks:
But first you know we really ought to read ‘em their rights

Aykroyd:
Read ‘em their rights,
Read ‘em their rights.

Hanks:
Well, I’m here tonight to rap about your rights
‘Cause right now you’re in trouble
Don’t have to say nothing at all, you all got two calls
And you’d better make ‘em on the double

[Hook]
This is a city of crime
Don’t step out of line
This is a city of crime
You’d better be praying your judge is kind

1:01 Back to the hip-hopera at hand, where it seems as if the rams are actually REAL PEOPLE.

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I couldn’t be less invested in this plot. All I want is more choreography.

1:06 I want to hear Kanye on this beat.

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With, of course, these two doing choreo in the background.

1:09 Hanks’s hip-hop voice is 720 percent treble. It’s very startling. Bad startling.

1:10 It just got real.

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Enter: the third rapper. The criminals rap too. Also: One plays guitar and the other rocks furs. Again: THIS PLOT DOES NOT MATTER. DO NOT — I repeat, DO NOT — BECOME INVESTED IN THESE CHARACTERS.

1:17 Scratch that. These three, and what they bring to the table, are incredible. This verse:

Well, excuse me copper, Mr. Crimestopper,
What is wrong with what we’re doing?
We just like to dance in our goatskin pants
Around this ancient ruin.

Unreal [lights Kendrick Lamar CD on fire, throws fireball out of window].

1:30 This has now become my favorite song of 2013. There’s no way to expect this would become a good vs. evil battle track. You know, like this:

Quite pleased with the ’80s right now for birthing this, even if the plot and everything about this video/song’s existence make no sense.

1:31 MORE CHOREO

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Unclear if I can ever watch the “Smooth Criminal” video again. It just won’t have the same pop after seeing Fosse, Fosse, and their Fosse background dancers.

1:52 Dan and Tom are going back and forth, and I can’t lie, their flows are growing on me. Aykroyd is like Chuck D and Tom is Flavor Flav, except a better rapper and not-quite-there-yet hype man.

2:08 In case you were curious, which you’re not, Aykroyd and Tom are questioning a guy about that pagan organization, and he doesn’t seem to be cooperating.

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2:22 Thankfully, he doesn’t cooperate, because that means we get MORE CHOREO:

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2:32 Didn’t expect this video to get remotely sexy, but it did. Shout-out to the LAPD.

2:39 The rapping style in this video across the board is very reminiscent of this:

This is the highest compliment that anything bad can receive.

2:49 OK, now they’re on a stage that looks a lot like the Arsenio Hall set, but I know it to not be the Arsenio Hall set. Just wanted to point that out.

2:55 The choreo is just phenomenal. If anyone tries to show me the dance breakdown in “Remember the Time,” I’m just going to refer them to this clip. Or that scene in Coming to America. Yeah, that too. Also: The Wiz.

3:06 “In case you don’t agree with my methodology” — Aykroyd

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That’s what we call “BARS IN BARS.” Phenomenal work by the Conehead.

3:14 While Tom Hanks’s rapping is hit or miss, Dan’s delivery is fantastic. Sure, it sounds like he reading from a teleprompter, but he does it so #YOLO that, you know, it doesn’t matter.

3:20 The final back-and-forth could not be any more different than the beginning, because the beginning was bad and this is not bad.

Dan Aykroyd: I’m the man of the hour
Tom Hanks: The tower of power
Dan Aykroyd: I’m the arm of the law
Tom Hanks: The very last straw
Dan Aykroyd: I’m on the side of the right.
Tom Hanks: A Trojan white knight
Dan Aykroyd: If you get me uptight I am
Tom Hanks: A frightening sight
Dan Aykroyd: I’m as strong as the army
Tom Hanks: Nothing can’t harm me
Dan Aykroyd: Coming down like a hammer

I’m proud of these two rappers. Can’t think of many instances of rappers improving so exponentially over the course of just a single song. Sure, the end result mirrors that of two drunk uncles who stole the microphones at the bat mitzvah party, but the beginning was that of two drunk uncles who stole the microphones at a funeral. So yeah. Respect progress.

3:33 Everything was worth it for this:

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Into THIS:

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HIP-HOP.

Filed Under: Hip Hop, Rembert Explains, Tom Hanks

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Rembert Browne is a staff writer for Grantland.

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