Categories
Datebook Events Listings Neighborhoods NEW YORK CITY ARCHIVES NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES VOICE CHOICES ARCHIVES Where To

I HEART BK

Just because the Fourth of July was Sunday doesn’t mean the party’s over. Check out tonight’s kick-off event for Brooklyn Bodega’s sixth annual Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival’s “Show & Prove Superbowl,” a competition/showcase for rising hip-hop artists to prove they can pump up a crowd. The six-day festival features panels, film screenings, and theater. Highlights coming up later in the week include the “Bodega Education Initiative: The Legacy of J Dilla,” featuring a conversation with Dilla’s mother, Maureen “Ma Dukes” Yancey, and Q-Tip, and a “Classic Hip-Hop Film Night” screening of 1992’s Juice (1992), starring Tupac Shakur. The festival wraps July 10 with a Family Day for the kids and a concert, hosted by Uncle Ralph McDaniel, with De La Soul, Black Moon, Rakka Iriscience, DJ Babu, J Dilla Ensemble, Those Chosen, and Aquil.

Mon., July 5, 8 p.m., 2010

Categories
Living NYC ARCHIVES VOICE CHOICES ARCHIVES Where To

MIX MASTERS

Stetsasonic’s two seminal records On Fire and In Full Gear landed in 1986 and 1988 as hip-hop was transitioning from the TR-808 boom-thwack to SP-1200 tikka-tikka. But “the original hip-hop band” always had a sound that transcended gear. Combining samples and live instruments, mixing rock, jazz, and go-go, they always sounded lush, complex, busy, louder, and funkier than the competition. Tonight, they reunite with the full original lineup for the first time since who-knows-when. They’ll be joined by African true-schoolers Zimbabwe Legit, who were maybe the most coulda-been-classic group ever to be shelved in the ’90s, as well as YZ, whose 1989 single “Thinking of a Master Plan” is a slab of pro-Black radical funk adored by hip-hop purists. Also: the “World’s Fastest Rapper” competition hosted by Jalil and Ecstasy of Whodini! With People Under the Stairs, Mike G. & Sammie B of Jungle Brothers, Cadence, and DJ Babu. Hosted by Just Ice.

Sat., Oct. 25, 7 p.m., 2008

Categories
CULTURE ARCHIVES FILM ARCHIVES Living NYC ARCHIVES TV ARCHIVES VOICE CHOICES ARCHIVES

All Mixed Up

There’s a moment in Scratch, Doug Pray’s new documentary, when you begin to feel the film accelerating from workman-like music journalism to something of a revelatory experience. A fuzzily warm Bay Area DJ named Qbert, founding member of the Invisibl Skratch Piklz, is trying to explain the art of DJ’ing. “It’s like you’re the instrument,” he smiles, “and the universe is playing you.” Qbert is one of a chorus of voices that feverishly announce the dawn of the present-day Turntablist Era, one that restores the DJ to the cherished central role in hip-hop.

Pray’s previous effort, Hype, expertly chronicled the rise and fall of Seattle grunge rockers, but in the end you were left with Eddie Vedder lamenting the scene’s overcommercialization. Scratch‘s tale of the resurgent mixmaster is not only an exuberant portrayal of hip-hop’s self-healing, it’s a compelling meditation on the future of making music in America. Focusing on underground types like Mix Master Mike (Beastie Boys, Invisibl Skratch Piklz), Rob Swift and the X-Ecutioners, and DJ Babu and the Beat Junkies, Scratch is exploding with unbridled optimism and talent.

Echoing the old-school purist line, the film embraces the “four elements” of hip-hop (DJ’ing, MC’ing, graffiti writing, and break dancing) that gained celluloid immortality in Charlie Ahearn’s 1982 pseudo-doc Wild Style. Pioneers like GrandWizzard Theodore and Jazzy Jay explain the origins of the break beat, and grainy Grammy Awards footage captures the revolutionary work of GrandMixer DXT. But his star turn on Herbie Hancock’s 1984 classic, “Rockit,” was a flash in the pan, as MCs gradually abandoned their DJ partners in pursuit of commercial success in the mid ’80s.

Scratch‘s central narrative shows how a new generation of DJs were inspired by GrandMixer DXT. They became part of a growing scene dedicated to hip-hop’s communal “battling” aesthetic, progressing from mixing to beat-juggling, and finally, body-spinning in annual competitions like Skratchathon and the DMC U.S. finals, both documented in the film. One sequence, featuring DJ Shadow “digging” for beats among piles of vintage LPs in a record store basement, demonstrates hip-hop’s postmodern genius for making gems out of pop detritus. Interviews with Qbert and eccentric Asphodel Records guru Naut Humon recapture Afrika Bambaataa’s “Planet Rock” talk-to-the-aliens mythology in ways that seem both humorous and dead serious.

Still, Scratch‘s strongest moments are the live performance sequences, where hip-hop becomes an ultra-rhythmic spiritual experience, with roots in West African trance ritual and South Bronx gang solidarity. Although the film is perhaps overly weighted toward West Coast performers (the presence of the New York-based X-Ecutioners is fleeting), it has a universal feel—thousands of kids might be inspired to turn in their guitars for two turntables and a mixer.