This past weekend the borough of Brooklyn celebrated the skyrocketing genre of electronic music with their own festival known as the BEMF. Throughout the two day event, several acts stood out – but hands down the best set of the weekend came from the ethereal beats of hip-hop. And as DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist explained during their historic moments on the decks, you can’t have one without the other. First you walk, then you run people.
Writing about this show though, deserves a big picture view. It was not a regular Friday evening in the concrete jungle, it was special.
The skill set of Djing is one of the raddest concepts ever conceived. There’s a lot of history there and to pull off a relatively decent set, you can’t be a regular chump off the street. You have to know music, embody that shit. Beatastically in-tune dudes and dudettes use their intellect, highly honed ears and inner metronomes to take finished pieces of final produced wax, and roll all those ingredients together in creating a groove that in turn pays homage to it’s very originators while simultaneously creating real time new works of their own. All of it done in the hopes of wylin the crowd out. They do it live, they do it in front of you and they take an extremely complex art form and make it look effortless. Perception here is not reality.
It would be like taking my boy Aaron Sorkin, a modern day heavyweight in throwing down language in an order that evokes fantastic imagery and emotion – and asking him to take Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, Emerson’s Self-Reliance and Kerouac’s On the Road and write you a fucking epic soliloquy. Now. Right now. Oh, and please, please, please, make sure you wrap that up in 88 minutes. Sir. It’s like that and knowing Sorkin – he could probably pull it off.
So when I say this show was historic, this sentence holds a ton of weight. The ask: Take the original records of hip-hop forefather Afrika Bambaataa, team-up with your best mate, try not to blow your load, and move and educate a diverse crowd of New Yorkers through the realms of hip-hop lore. Renegades of Rhythm is what they’re calling this tour run and the boys had to ask permission from Mr. Bambaataa himself to “check out” his collection for an extended period of time so they could present his legendary catalog to the masses. Thank god he said yes.
What happen to Brooklyn next was pure joy. Shadow and Cut took 6 turntables and 2 microphones and turned the mother completely out (no meat was left on the bone). First taking the time out to explain to all in attendance the significance of the journey we were about to embark on, followed by the coolest wilderness guides this side of the Oregon Trail scratching and turning their way from the 50’s thru the 90’s and beyond, as they properly laid down the foundations of a movement. Bambaataa’s collection featured everything from Disco (an era where he got more experimental we would find out) to James Brown to the Beasties Boys to new wave – it was all in there! At one point, Cut Chemist brought out an original 1967 Vox drum machine and rocked out on that for a minute or two. The owner of the Vox just happens to be Grandmaster Flash.
On the same night where the Zulu Nation was celebrating 41 years of existence across town, it was only fitting for this duo to be spinning Bambaataa. As if everything I’ve just mentioned wasn’t enough, the duo made sure to have us circle up and let several B-Boys take over the dance floor as they played nothing but “Sure Shots.” That was actually one of the coolest things they spoke about. Shadow wearing a “Sure” tee and Cut Chemist sporting the “Shot” shirt, they went into the method of how Afrika Bambaataa organized records you and I today would call, “Bangers.” Bambaataa would put labels on specific albums, calling them “Sure Shots” – tracks he knew would amplify the crowd, and throughout this night, all you heard was sure shot, after sure shot, after sure shot coming out the speakers. Full circle ladies and gents. As they walked off the stage, smiling, shaking hands with the fans, it was lost on no one what had just gone down. DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist took the work of a modern day genius artist, and flawlessly paid it forward, introducing and reintroducing to people the genuine meaning of hip-hop culture. The forefathers would be proud.
You can catch Renegades of Rhythm HERE.
Video | Elizabeth Ramirez
Writer | Rene Ramirez