West Coast turntablists (it might be a terminology nitpick to not call them DJs, but what they do is far different from EDM DJs like Avicii, Skrillex, Tiesto, etc) Josh Davis (aka DJ Shadow) and Lucas McFadden (aka Cut Chemist) have teamed up a number of times over their careers, and this latest joint venture is among the most special and unique so far. Given access to hip-hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa's prodigious record collection, they've constructed a tour using these actual copies and relaying the history of the genre as it unfolded. The massive collection, estimated at 40,000 LPs, is the source code of hip-hop, the DNA that created the most important music genre of the last few decades. Along with co-explorers Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash, the dizzying array of music that Bambaataa discovered, cut up, digested, manipulated and let loose on the world was a wild melange of audio adventurism.
With the stage design of the NYC skyline paying homage to the where it all started (and Shadow noting the juxtaposition with Fenway Park just across the street), the two men were busying filling the six decks with copies that Bambaataa used and loved, sometimes to the point of grave damage to sleeve or actual record that would make a record collector blanch. Disco, jazz, Krautrock, new wave, rock - all was fair game during the sonic plunder as the two worked together to make an incredible flow, with the visuals of Ben Stokes meshing perfectly. Attention to detail was even apparent in their sartorial choices - two black T shirts with a "Sure Shot" reference to some of Bambaataa's notations on particular gems in his collection. The night ended with Shadow and Chemist verbally clearing space on the floor for b-boys to get in on the action and bust out their moves.
Edan and Paten Locke took the stage first, and their performance was a ricochet ride of hardcore freestyle rap battles, electronically-distorted acoustic guitar and kazoo, theremin, and their own take on Bambaataa reverence, with Edan flowing topical lyrics while Locke flipped through dog-eared LP sleeves from the collection.
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