Saturday, March 14, 2015
In what was a wet dream for turntablists, record collectors, musicologists and hip hop heads alike, the Renegades Of Rhythm tour hit Metro City on Saturday night. Featuring pioneering, turntable adventurers DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist, this was a special, once in a lifetime tour that saw the duo taking Afrika Bambaataa’s legendary record collection on the road for a musical history lesson, armed with six turntables and two mixers.
South Bronx native Bambaataa is regarded as the Godfather of hip hop, and visionary pioneer of electro-funk and breakbeat, and the two West Coast sampladelic DJ geniuses were granted full access to his 40,000 strong collection – the famed source of so many classic samples, which was recently donated to Cornell University in upstate New York.
Perth’s own sample-based, hip hop champion of all things funky, breaky and exotic Charlie Bucket started the night off. While only the bottom floor of Metros was open, it was an amped and packed crowd that warmly greeted the dynamic duo.
DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist, sporting ‘SURE’ and ‘SHOT’ T-shirts respectively, took their positions behind the decks, flanked by packed crates. Grabbing a mic, Shadow offered a little introduction about exactly what they were doing for the uninitiated.
Kicking off in the ‘60s with some funky wah-wah guitar, the battle was on. Fittingly they dropped Drumbeat by Jim Ingram, featuring that classic sample, “It began in Africa” and from then on it was a whirlwind tour through music evolution, historically and geographically.
Moving rapidly through James Brown funk, salsa swing, Cuban horns, Latin flavours, the big screen behind them was illuminated with a slide show of the actual records – some sporting hand-written notes like “Property of Afrika Bambaataa” or “funky Calypso music”, while other tattered old jackets had their titles hidden with a strip of black tape.
Scratching a percussive bongo record, Cut Chemist deftly played it like a drum, tapping the record with both hands. The two DJs are virtuosos on their instruments and put on a display of showmanship, whilst remaining respectful of the seminal records. “I guarantee this isn’t happening at Kylie’s show!” said Shadow.
Moving through a ‘70s disco section there were so many familiar sounds – a break here, a synth there, a bassline – the secret ingredients to so many recipes over the years. They would sometimes play the original record, alongside the more popular ones that sampled them, such as Groove Is In The Heart and Rappers Delight. The sheer range of Bam’s collection is amazing, it’s not just funk and hip hop – there was music spanning decades and genres – with familiar sleeves flashing up from Cat Stevens, The Beatles, Gary Newman, Steve Miller Band, Kraftwerk.
A particularly impressive moment was where the two engaged in a synchronised beat-juggle – the last time they would ever do that, Chemist said. As J5 fans would know, Chemist loves his toys, and tonight he showed off an extremely rare 1967 “box percussion thing.” Familiar beats continued to fly by with Grandmaster Flash, Yes, Beastie Boys, that classic Apache riff, before a final section featuring Bambaataa’s own fusions of electro and hip hop including the classic Planet Rock with Soul Sonic Force.
A truly special evening and an incredible journey through the historical archives that formed a blueprint for hip hop and electronic music, with two of your finest curators, who were having the time of their lives.