DJ Premier and Pete Rock Gig Review (Melbourne 07/05/2014)

Golden era hip hop seems to be passing through Melbourne of late. I caught several Ninja Tune producers deconstruct/remake ‘Paul’s Boutique’ in its entirety at the Prince of Wales at the end of February, saw Public Enemy (with S1W’s to boot) do a high energy greatest hits show in early March, and the other night I was lucky enough to catch two of the greatest producers ever to grace the game, DJ Premier and Pete Rock when they DJ’d at the Corner Hotel.

Having missed their original show at 170 Russell Street a few nights previously, I was enormously glad when this extra gig was announced as the opportunity to see these two perform was simply unmissable in my eyes. Due to Rock’s seminal work as one half of Pete Rock and CL Smooth, the work he did for Nas, his superlative version of ‘Shut ‘Em Down’, ‘Fakin Jax’ and my personal favourite 2003’s ‘Petestrumentals’ album which contains the best (and least obvious) flip of James Brown’s ‘The Boss’ that I know of.

DJ Premier as the beat maker for Gangstarr created some of the most identifiable and indelible hip hop tunes of the 1990s with all the duo’s albums essentially becoming classics. Never resting, he went onto an incredibly high level solo career making beats for Biggie Smalls (such as ‘Kick in the Door’ and ‘Unbelievable’), Group Home, Nas and Jeru’s best work (Wrath of the Maths’ and ‘The Sun Rises in the East’) amongst others.

Both producers seem a perfect match for collaboration given their background as the musical halves of successful partnerships, their noticeable Jazz leanings and place within the hip hop pantheon. Certainly their musical knowledge can’t be faulted and given their record collections and sample savvy, a live performance was never going to be anything other than great.

Upon their arrival on the stage, Premier announced that everything they were about to play would be ‘real’, whether we liked it or not and using what appeared to be two Apple MacBooks, some 1200s and a copy of Serato, they started with a Run DMC medley including King of Rock, Beats to the Rhyme, My Adidas and a wicked ‘Peter Piper’ cut-up before moving on to well known tunes that they either liked or had a hand in creating.

There was a fantastic Stevie Wonder section in which they played a variety up of his hits to celebrate his forthcoming birthday and a lengthy Jay Dilla tribute which featured a lot of his stuff from Doughnuts and the Electric Circus era with a smattering of instrumental Pharcyde as well.

They broke it down and re-built from the basics by literally re-starting with the break from Funky Drummer and launching into a ill James Brown segment which thankfully included my favourite James Brown (or Fred Wesley) cut ‘Blind Man Can See It’ from the Black Caesar OST, flipping that into Das FX’s ‘They Want FX’. This then segued into what all beat minded hip hop heads want, which was about an hour of sample sources mixed into the tunes that sampled them… Such as Eric Burdon mixed into Pot Holes in my Lawn, ‘As Long as I’ve Got You’ by The Charmels blended into Cream by Wu-Tang, L’il’ Ghetto Boy into, um… Lil’ Ghetto Boy, and Herbie Hancock’s ‘Jessica’ into Shook Ones Pt II to rousing effect.

Both were on the mic throughout the gig exhorting the crowd to ‘say ho’, ‘yell Premo’, ‘clap your hands’ and so on a’ la old school block parties and the crowd happily rose to the challenge and attempted to follow all commands including throwing Wu Tang ‘W’ hand shapes during the Cream / Charmels mix and imitating Stevie Wonder’s distinctive head rolls during the Wonder birthday tribute at Premier’s behest.

Premier and Pete Rock shared cutting and scratching duties equally, with Rock being the better scratcher in this author’s opinion. They also worked together for big scratching effects, notably transforming two parts of a big uplifter that lead into a new segment at one point and giving each other side eye and congratulatory half smiles when they successfully pulled it off. Premier stated that, he couldn’t rap, but ‘Pete Rock can rhyme’. And to illustrate this fact, Rock took his mic off the stand for awhile and threw down while Premier stayed behind the decks providing the background for his flows.

Before the evening was over, I got to hear Premier yelling most of the lines to my favourite Gangstarr track, ‘Just to Get A Rep’, whilst Rock cut it up in the background and the two and a bit hour set concluded with Rock humming the melody for ‘They Reminisce Over You’ into the mic while Premier mixed in the name sake anthem for a barn storming closer.

According to other people who had seen their previous show a few nights before, they varied the set a fair bit, excising Nas sections in favour of Dilla and generally ensuring they didn’t play the same stuff twice. They were also good enough to hang around afterwards sign stuff and pose for photos and all in all, I couldn’t have asked for a better gig. It’s rare nowadays that something like this meets my expectations. This not only met them, it vastly exceeded them. To paraphrase Rakim, these guys know how to move a crowd and I would highly recommend catching them if they ever come to your town.

Written and posted by Horatio Cornblower. Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

Also see earlier post: https://theeasternterraces.wordpress.com/tag/gangstarr/

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and The Eastern Terraces with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Killer Mike – Reagan

To quote Rakim, “It’s been a long time…”

Since I bothered listening to much new hip hop. However, I accidently stumbled upon this tune by Killer Mike and was very impressed by the lyrics, beat and (dare I say) video. In this age of post modern bling, name changing Snoop Doggs and incredibly vacuous subject matter, it’s a refreshing change to find tracks like this still being made.

With its cynical 1980s sound bites and military industrial complex hatred, it should come as no surprise that this was produced by Brooklyn’s famed El-P… and yet it does, as the last time I heard an El-P album (or indeed saw him live), he was channelling Trent Renzor (via Rawkus) and had just released 2007’s I’ll Sleep When Your Dead.

This however is a welcome throwback to his Mr Lif times and grabbed me from the get-go. Strong words, great beats and a video somewhat reminiscent (to me at least) of Ralph Bakshi’s early 1970s oeuvre.

Take 4 minutes and check it out.

Posted by Horatio Cornblower

All The Golden Fronts And Golden Era Cali Hip Hop

A friend recently reminded me of the great Viktor Vaughn albums of the early 2000s which prompted me to reminisce in general of my love affair with Californian semi-underground hip hop between 2003 and 2006. Notably the Madlib/MF Doom/Stones Throw axis, but also gems like the above tune from Nobody which was released the ‘Sounds of L.A’ EP back in 2006 and which I still own on vinyl somewhere.

Also worth re-visiting are the following:

Love the Jean Michael Jarre sample and synth horn stabs. Bst tune from that album IMO.

Although this takes a huge chuck of Adormeceu” by O Terço… It’s the best chunk, and that’s what sampling is about.

So many stoner tracks have been made, but this would have to be one of the best.

Great opener from MF Doom’s finest solo work.

Great sloppy MPC work and truly sublime sampling.

Personal fave from the ‘Sound Directions’ album.

There are many more that could be listed, but do yourself a favour and dig a little.

Written and Posted by Horatio Cornblower. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

SCHOOLLY D: The Supreme Punk Rock Rapper

Schoolly D doesn’t give a fuck.

IMO the most punk hip-hopper that ever gripped a mike (as in the attitude/DIY way), Schoolly D  is at his best when the music he creates comes closest to falling apart. In what he says, how he says it and the way in which he creates his tunes, he reflects the punk ethos of doing whatever it takes to get his songs heard, get his name out and the way in which this occurs is less important the fact that it is done.

As most hip-hop heads would know, there was a synergy between punk and hip hop in the late 70s and early 1980s. John Lydon and Afrika Bambatta dropped ‘World Destruction’, the Clash had Grandmaster Flash support their 1980 tour, Malcolm McLaren had a hit with ‘Buffalo Gals’, punk rockers The Beastie Boys hung out at Danceteria before reverse white-facing their way towards ‘Licensed To Ill’ and even the doyen of the downtown scene Fab 5 Freddy stated that “There has always been this rebellious connection between hip-hop and punk music”.

Schoolly D’s not giving a fuck attitude carries over to his choice of backing tracks. In collaboration with DJ Code Money, he sampled whatever he felt like with scant regard given to licensing requirements and legal wherewithal’s. Admittedly this was easier in the halcyon sampling era of the late 1980s, but it still takes a certain amount of balls, to sample the main riff from Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return) and transform it into a track called ‘Pussy Ain’t Nothing’ as he did on his 1988 album Smoke Some Kill.

Code Money and Schoolly D

Schoolly Reppin’ Fila

Similarly, the blistering title track of his ‘Am I Black Enough For You’ from 1989 takes a significant chunk of Billy Paul’s tune of the same name and ‘Soul Power 74’, ‘Mama Feelgood’ samples ‘Mama Feelgood’ and ‘Think (About It)’ by  James Brown squeeze Lyn Collins and ‘Where’d You Get That Funk From’ obtains its own from large chunks of Zapp and George Clinton. It is probably for this reason, original Schoolly D albums have traditionally been quite hard to find and even now few are available except on the second hand market at high prices. His track ‘Signifying Rapper’ which was originally on Smoke Some Kill features an interpolation of Rudy Ray Moore and ‘Kashmir’ by Led Zeppelin. It was subsequently used as the end credit music on Abel Ferrera’s Bad Lieutenant and the notoriety of the film eventually led to Schoolly getting sued and having to pay out big bucks to Led Zeppelin’s record label and lawyers.

Most likely to address this very issue, A Gangsters Story was released in 1996 which is essentially a best of album with all new backing tracks. Some of which are quite good, particularly ‘Saturday Night’ which is as good or better than the original. However, the polished versions on this album lack the visceral thrill of the original cuts which always seemed so much rougher and more appropriately encapsulate the street thug vibe that Schoolly projects.

OG DIY Label for ‘Gucci Time’

From his first release of PSK in 1985 in which he rapped about a local street gang called the Park Side Killers, Schoolly has been derided and lauded in equal measure. He’s universally regarded as having created gangster rap, but critically mauled for his one note performances and skills. In my opinion, he is a true iconoclast forging new paths for others to later polish and profit from, but unlike those who tread in his wake, he has never compromised and his music and his audience are much richer for that.

Schoolly stalkin’ the stage at the fabled Latin Quarter circa 1986

“Muthafuck it, I get straight to the point
You don’t dig what I’m sayin, then fuck you
Cause sellin drugs only job that a nigga got
Sellin caine to the kids in the parkin lot”

Opening lyric from ‘King of New York’ (1990)

 

Written and posted by Horatio Cornblower. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and The Eastern Terraces with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

SATURDAY NIGHT (Original version)

AM I BLACK ENOUGH FOR YA (Afrocentric dookie chain braggadocio at its finest)

[Skip to  1:31  if you wish to avoid the Richard Pryor scratch intro].

MAMA FEELGOOD (Essentially an entire track about getting hard-ons/laid)

MR BIG DICK (Speaks for itself, I guess. Gotta love the twist on Aardman/Peter Gabriel claymation)

GANGSTER BOOGIE (Smooth, self-released stripped down 808 beat)

RUN (I am sucker for a Warriors sample)

KING OF NEW YORK (Original Video)

WHERE’D YOU GET THAT FUNK FROM (Sampled ‘Atomic Dog’ before Ice Cube did)

SCHOOL’S OUT (with Mekon)

SATURDAY NIGHT (1996 Remix)