Detroit’s Hardcore Punk Scene Comes Alive in “Dope, Hookers and Pavement” Documentary

The new documentary “Dope, Hookers and Pavement: The Real and Imagined History of Detroit Hardcore” is a comprehensive history of the city’s 1980s punk scene. It’s part of the 7th annual Freep Film Festival, happening now.

The Motor City has provided many soundtracks to the rest of the world from gospel to Motown and electronic genres like techno.

In the new documentary “Dope, Hookers and Pavement: The Real and Imagined History of Detroit Hardcore,” the sound of Michigan’s suburban youth get their due for helping to pioneer the sound of hardcore punk in Detroit’s Cass Corridor neighborhood in the early 1980s.

“It’s about a can-do ability that a lot of these kids acted upon to create something.” — Otto Buj, director

Courtesy of Otto Buj
Courtesy of Otto Buj

The documentary was directed by Windsor filmmaker Otto Buj and is part of the 7th annual Freep Film Festival, which focuses on films about people, places and issues throughout Michigan.

“Hardcore punk was a reaction to 70s punk,” says Buj, who frequented Detroit to attend punk shows decades ago. “It was primarily young kids who wanted to play it louder, faster, harder and unlike what any of them had heard before.”

Buj acts as a definitive look at this era of Detroit music that is often overlooked for its influence on the punk rock genre as a whole. It features interviews from Minor Threat front man Ian MacKaye, Touch and Go Records founder Tesco Vee and John Brannon, who is one of the most well-known figures to emerge from the Detroit hardcore punk scene as the lead singer of Negative Approach.

“This part of Detroit’s cultural history is not terribly well documented,” says Buj. “I wanted to find a common ground with a lot of people who have no connection or interest in punk rock or Detroit hardcore to realize that this is more than just a story about that music.”

“Dope, Hookers and Pavement: The Real and Imagined History of Detroit Hardcore” is screening now as part of the Freep Film Festival through December 6th. See this and other Michigan-centric documentaries via

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  • Ryan Patrick Hooper
    Ryan Patrick Hooper is the award-winning host of "In the Groove" on 101.9 WDET-FM Detroit’s NPR station. Hooper has covered stories for the New York Times, NPR, Detroit Free Press, Hour Detroit, SPIN and Paste magazine.