In 1988, the summer A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master was released, New Line Cinema sued BMG, the music label of DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. The rap duo’s second album He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper had been released earlier that year, and they made a video for “Nightmare on My Street,” a tribute, in the pair’s signature goofy style, to the Elm Street dream demon himself, Freddy Krueger. Originally, they’d been in talks to produce the video in conjunction with the studio, but the studio instead opted to commission “Are You Ready for Freddy?” from The Fat Boys. When BMG tried to release the video anyway, even managing to air it on MTV a few times, New Line sued and won, and the court ordered all copies of the video destroyed.
For three decades, the video was assumed lost. Jazzy Jeff told Uproxx earlier this year that his then-girlfriend had mistakenly taped over his copy, and that Will Smith’s father had reportedly lost his.
“If there’s anyone out there that regularly taped MTV in 1988, go through your archives and see if you have the actual ‘Nightmare on My Street’ video,” Rolling Stone’s Andy Greene wrote in 2016. “The Internet would love to see it.”
Now the internet can, thanks to a user who managed to upload a digital copy of the video to YouTube, just in time for Halloween. (While shaky and low-quality, it comes complete with a moment, mid-video, where someone accidentally taped a couple of seconds of Growing Pains over the original content.)
The video is a curiosity: its version of Freddy Krueger has the razor-claws and the habit of entering people’s dreams to assault them, but he looks more like Frankenstein’s monster than like the Robert Englund version of the character familiar from Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street and its many sequels. Still, even though this video’s Freddy isn’t wearing his signature striped sweater, and even though the video adds a disclaimer at the end disavowing any approval from New Line, the story resemblance, including referencing Freddy by name, was strong enough to prompt the New Line suit.
As grainy and off-color as this copy is, it’s still startling to see a young Will Smith mugging his way through interactions with Freddy, after a full 30 years of the video being unavailable. Its reappearance gives just a little more credence to Patton Oswalt’s geek culture theory of “Everything That Ever Was—Available Forever” — the theory that all culture is being endlessly preserved for anyone who wants to see it. Who knows what famous lost works might resurface next?