Hip hop is the dominant force on any playing field at the minute. Is there anyone on the planet with a wider sphere of (annoying) influence than Kanye West? Not really. Should Chester P run for mayor again? Fuck yes he should. Even Barack Obama is citing rappers as iPod fodder to galvanise votes. What a dick.
Is this ‘dominance’ a good thing? We are not so sure. I mean, we like the idea of hip hop artists getting what they deserve and all that, but, at what cost? Is this hip hop juggernaut detrimental to the underbelly that the ‘true’ fans have always stayed ‘true’ to? Yes. Will it inevitably crash and burn in a big flaming shitstorm made up of maybachs, private jets and shit music? Probably. Would we prefer the scene be simmering on the peripheries of all things musical? Yes. Was this current climate inevitable? Absolutely.
If hip hop and folk music were to have a game of chess, hip hop would smash the chessboard in half, eat folk music’s Queen, King and most of the pawns before bitch slapping folk music in the face and exiting the building to go on the razz. Is this a good thing? At times, yes. Why? Because, it’s fun to act like an idiot every once in a while, if you don’t do that then you are boring, but let’s be honest, there really is no future in it. Is it fair? Not one bit – that’s just what happens when musical genres sit down and play fictional games of chess against each other.
What exactly am I getting at I hear you ask? Well…
Hip hop is a glorious craft with a glorious heritage, it is a scene that I have immersed myself in ever since I could get in the motherfucking club. I have seen it ebb and flow, die and resurrect, suck and shine. I have seen it ALL in one way or another, or at least I like to think I have – from Japanese to French, Russian to Colombian, and yet, even after all this time, so many people still get it OH SO VERY WRONG.
Not that this can be prescribed to the current crop of rubbish rappers, average DJs and pony producers polluting the scene alone, not one bit. I am 1000% sure that each and every rap epoch (past, present and definitely future) has played host to a healthy percentage of people missing the point.
And boy does it get me down.
This is why I am overjoyed to have been at London’s Koko on Saturday to witness an event that resorted parity in my twat riddled vision specs.
As I see it, and correct me if I am wrong, but there are always two ends to each musical happening, comparators if you like (this is shit and that is good if you will). These ends change and flux depending on what you like/dislike about any particular scene, but there are ALWAYS two ends. Take this one microcosm for example. The far right of this particular spectrum is Raekwon’s 2011 London show at Kentish Town’s HMV Forum, whereas, the other end (the good end) is Saturday night at Koko.
At Raekwon I found myself surrounded by an army of Wu-Tang fans (obviously). Some safe, some not so safe, and some COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY OFF THE RAILS. The best way to describe the derailers on that particular evening is as ‘bullies’ and correct me if I’m wrong, but bullying is not cool. Neither is smacking people in the face for no reason whatsoever. Just to clear things this up, and music aside, this is the bad end of the spectrum.
As previously mentioned, the other end of this particular spectrum (far left) is Jurassic 5′s DJ Numark and A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammed at Koko on Saturday night – doing everything in their power to show the people that rap music and turntablism (I don’t need to list the pillars of this hip hop shit) is NOT ALWAYS about gathering the energy to leave the house, dressing up like a twat, sniffing cocaine and rolling around the club looking for susceptible punch victims. They reaffirmed the fact with almost every record they span that hip hop music is celebratory; it is a form of music that should bring people together to do a short list of extremely important things; feel happy, have fun, meet people and (most importantly) dance.
Never have I been to a night where conversations with randoms flowed so rapidly. I remember chatting to about eight different people at the same time while smoking a cigarette. There were the two guys from Reading, Sinita the roll-up pikey, the chap who looked like Paul Weller and the girl who accused me of not recognising her from her gap year in Goa (I have never been to Goa) – it was bananas. It was also EXCELLENT.
Me and my buddy had passes to the backstage area, but why oh why would we want to hang out back there when the spirit on the floor was so thoroughly dope? Universal fun was had by everyone as Numark dropped classic after classic; interlinking bangers with esoteric numbers such as ‘Mr Sandman’, Beach Boys joints and (get this) Phil Collins!!
Ali Shaheed Muhammed was late, but did we hate him for it? Did we fuck. Turning the lights down a little with his set, but at the same time as drawing the hormone levels up, Ali was spot on with his sprinkling of old and new. From classic Tribe shufflers to brand spanking A$AP Rocky, no stone felt unturned.
Me and gang left at 4am – we were drunk as fuck. We were completely in the zone. Everyone was.
If everything works out as I hope it does and the spectrums continue to divide opinion and spark debate, my plan is to ride the far left until hip hop music is so fractured and broken that we long for the days that A Tribe Called Quest, Jurassic 5 and other acts such as De La Soul and Arrested Development decided that enough was enough and that positivity and hip hop were two ideals that would get on like a house on fire.
They were right and for this I am wholeheartedly grateful.
Review – Thomas Hawkins