Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Ciao Brachos

The remains of the days, or rather the remaining day, sit perched on a balcony atop the valley in Barrandorv. The last two weeks have been perpetual motion; from the day I arrived back in Prague from London, the speed of life has been in overdrive. The arrival of the Brooklyn massive brought a serious case of energitis, to borrow a word from Tah Phrum Duh Bush. It all climaxed yesterday with the epic "Hob-n-Nob" release event, which began on the Prague subway, blossomed at the Archa Theater, and wound down at Pantheon. It was an unparalleled experience for me (and for most of the participants and the crowd I think) in terms of the artistic diversity, international flavor, pure talent and sheer enormity.

Friday night last, Dowis, Kid Lucky and myself rolled to Czeske Budejovice for a show at Marty's Bar. We left Prague immediately after another appearance on Beat Case with Ghonza and drove 200km, arriving at the spot right at midnight. Suffice it to say, it was jumping. 200+ heads packing the spot out, and a variety of Czech rap groups and DJs killed it. Kid and I rocked a full-blast 90 minute set, with some guest spots from the ill ensemble of Czech MCs in the house. I did triple duty on the mic, beatbox and the decks, and we took turns as frontman. The crowd was peppered with heads who were familiar with Beat Apetit, "Just What to Do," Nocs'Andel, 5th Element and Ocko TV, and Hip Hop Kemp. I opened my set with "The Better Bomb" and cats in the front completely knew it from drop. The Budejovice Hip Hop community showed us much love, copped CDs and rocked out the set. I jumped down into the middle of the crowd for a part b-boy/part mc rendition of "Believe it or Not" and got some of the "Budweiser Boys" B-Boy crew to get down. Ridiculous.

So, while all was good on the stage and in the crowd, the hostile iron was sitting on the coals. Over the course of the night, we saw 3 different fights; from what I gathered, it was all graffiti-related beef. By the close of the show, I felt like half the people I was talking to were covered in blood! No joke. I watched one of the DJs walk from behind the turntables and plant his foot in some dude's face at the front of the stage. While backstage there was an out-of-nowhere-blindside KO, and another late-night melee outside. But the craziest shit must've been the waaaaaasted drunkard who, while blindly stumbling for the bathroom, stopped short, opened his pants and damn near pissed on Kid's back! Unbelievable. But somehow, all the madness fit perfectly into the energy of the night, which was extremely high. We killed it, chilled for a minute, and eventually left for Prague at 4:00am. I was zonked for the ride home, which found me back at Casa Nasty at 6:00am. A few hours sleep before the Nasty alarm clock woke me up for the Hob-n-Nob extravaganza, beginning with soundcheck at 11:00am…

11:00am call time found its way to 12:30pm reality. The Archa Theater is the most incredible performance space I have ever seen. I knew this last year for Beat Apetit, and had it confirmed this time around. Mechanized stage, insane sound and lights, wireless mics galore, a sliding catwalk, and most importantly, a hyper-talented staff of stage craftsmen and women, sound/light engineers and stage managers. To witness a show of this magnitude and grand vision materialize is fascinating. But waiting around for it to actually get rolling was exhausting☺

Functioning on 5 ½ hours of sleep and a Jim Beamed brain, we ran the tech rehearsal and wrapped up just in time to make the Subway Series at Namesti Republiky at 5:00pm. It was a pretty surreal scene: the core of the NYC Subway Series transplanted to Prague, accompanied by Czech beatboxers ranging in age from 11 to 27, the incredible vocals of Charli One, Carli Jefferson on tap, and a carload of confused and excited Praguers. The series was necessarily brief, as we needed to get back to Archa to get ready to start.

I was on double duty for the show, as both emcee and deejay for the NYC cats. We set it off with a "Prague vs. NYC Poetry Slam." Everyone did an acapella piece, EnDru rocked the looper, and Dyalekt wrapped it up with an abridged version of his one-man Hip Hop play, "The Sqaure Peg Syndrome." Tah nearly lost his shirt during a steamy poetry rendition of "Touching Myself Touching You." Sizzle. Freaky Jezus and Nasty both did some amazing beatbox standup comedy. All those crazy sound effects put into narrative hilarity. But the highlight of this whole segment must've the Czech beatbox young guns, Misha and Adrian, killing it. These kids are 12 years old, and nothing short of prodigal. It is so riveting to see them rock, and so inspiring to see the way that Jaro and Ivanhoe have taken them under their wings. They are in good hands for sure. I know they were loving the experience of hanging with all the heads, but truthfully, they stole the show before it even got going. Magic.

Then the Beatburger Band tore shit up. Beatburger is the official ensemble of the dopest beatboxers in Czech: Jaro, Nasty, Ivanhoe, EnDru, Johnny Typek, with special guests. Their human rendition of "I Like to Move It Move It" is quintessential Euro-box, but is a fucking crowd rocker. People were losing their minds. A most excellent showcase.

It was onto the Hob-n-Nob release set. It commenced with two video clips expertly edited by Nasty, whose Final Cut skills are right on par with his beatbox. The highlight reel of the beatbox expedition segued into the video for "Beatbionic," performed on video by Baba and then finished off live by Core Rhythm. Core then went into "Glide" from "Ronin" and got the crowd amped. Dyalekt then came out to drop "The Knock," then my favorite joint from "Sqaure Peg," "Spectacular Failure." Perfect sing-a-long hook.
Carli followed with "Hope and Custard," then joined Tah for a verrrry theatrical rendering of "Tag Team Torture," in lieu of Demo G. Tah and Carli got two volunteers from the crowd and literally tied them up on stage. Tah then dropped his new "Semi-Reserved Closet Maniac" before finishing it off with "Lay That Pipe." For the finale, Tah, Hired Gun and Kid Lucky triangulated the patented one-armed floor hump. Poetry.

I then stepped from behind the decks to grab the mic. We first dropped "Just What To Do" from "Beat Apetit," then "The Better Bomb." The crowd response to both of these joints was really positive and made me feel like heads knew both of these joints a bit. Farbeon came on for "Open School," rocked some solo joints, followed by Hired Gun rocking "Gone is the Thrill" and "Dedication" from "The People's Verses." We then get busy as 3rd Party large with "Best Minds" and "Time Travellin." It was completely natural and totally unbelievable to be rocking with the whole group on foreign turf. But most of all, magnificent.

The show closed with the epic posse cut "Milki Way" featuring Dyalekt, Farbeon (in lieu of CONCEPT), myself, Tah, Ivanhoe and songstress Charli One. This was followed by the official CD birthday, which consists of pouring an entire bottle of liquor (Jim Beam, as a nod to the sponsors) on a copy of the album. We also did it retroactively for "BTBB."

Last but not least, we had a massive Nu Voices International Human Symphony, conducted by Kid Lucky and featuring all the performers. Brainsplode. This evolved into a monster cypher that included Hired Gun and myself getting all Red and Meth and climbing to the top of the speakers. And of course, on to Pantheon for the afterparty till 6:00am, where I got to spin classics for the energized post-show crowd. The Pete Rock Remix of "Jump Around" is a timeless global banger.

So there's the slightly delayed look back at the last 48 hours of performing in Europe. The following day was a chilled out deep breath; caught Dowis lacing a burner, BBQ'd for the crew at Nasty's, packed, slept for 3 hours, rolled to the airport and made the extensive (and once again, costly discount airline) trip from Prague to London Stansted, then to Heathrow, then to JFK. A cool 19 hours later I was back in Brooklyn, zipping along the Belt Parkway back to Park Slope. Back at home, recalculating, configuring, adjusting, sleeping, unpacking (sloooowly), gearing up for the teaching and DJ hustle and push the album domestically hardcore. Good thing it is still 70 degrees in New York. Chilly weather might have completely crippled my withered body.

There is a blog of reflections to come, along with some other bits and bundles of great news. The best news is that the Czechs are coming back to BK this Friday! We will ba having a "Hob-n-Nob" NYC Release Party on 10.10 @ Asteriks in Bushwick. Jeah. It was a relief to not have to say goodbye to everyone all at once. It was tough enough to bid ciao to Nasty and his incredible family, without whom I'm not sure I would've made it through this trip. I am forever indebted to their hospitality and warmth. They opened up their house, conversations and refrigerator to me as if I was one of their own. Beautiful people. I can't wait to be your tour guide in NYC.

Okay, so I'll save the emotional closure for the final blog entry, which appropriately enough, will be written from the vantage point of home. Special shouts out to Mareka, Lokey and Maria, three wonderful folks who cosmically came together for the release party to document and enhance. And big ups to BeeLow from for making the trip to Praha from Berlin!

This photo collage by Lokey ( pretty much sums up the vibe and energy of the event, and the trip for that matter. Dig this:

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Grime and Loveliness

Sometimes the cold front just rolls down out of the mountains, blows across the channel or swoops down from the skies with no warning. Such is the current case in Europa. When I left Prague last Saturday it was a steady 75 degrees Fahrenheit. As soon as I stepped off the plane in London, I was hit with the 50 degree brick. Not to say that it’s all that cold, but I’ve been rocking the summer wears and mentality for the duration of this trip, so the chilly welcome was a bit of a shocker.

But warmth was quickly found in the form of good company, crazy cyphers and overwhelming hospitality. My mellow Appl Juic had an action packed couple of days lined up, promptly starting with a late night session at the very dope new Hackney spot called Pangea Project, proprieteered by the very dope newlyweds Rosie & Selim. We broke out the looooooong freestyle cypher for the heads, blazing until early morning, or until the Wild Turkey and pints got the best of me. The epic day of travel and spitting found me grateful to bomb out on the cushiony coze of Appl J & Sarah’s Hackney flat. Big ups to DJ Slepton, Deenal, the Pangea staff, Isaac, Ronald and any else one slipping through my memory…

Sunday brought a slightly warmer London day. We set it off proper with a pint and “”Sunday Roast,” which, if you don’t know, is a solid way to steady to Sunday stomach. It was then on to Café Oto to rock the poetry vibes at Watchwords. Juic held down the hosting, I held down the decks. It’s an upstart poetry reading/open mic at this other new spot. We had a nice crowd and some really ill young grime emcees that ripped the freestyle over drums by Eddie. We kept the evening pretty mellow with some neighborhood pints with the Oxford boys. How British…☺

Monday I got hit with a bit of the sniffles. It was cold, drizzly, the market crashed; kind of a slow day all around. AJ and I starting working on a new track, which would eventually morph into ”The Tetris Effect,” the new banger we laid down. We capped off Monday night by watching Aston Villa score a 2-1 victory over household favorite Tottehham. Downer, but being from Buffalo, I was able to empathize with the sports suckery.

Tuesday was just right: we took a long stroll around the East End, from Hackney all the way to Shortage. It was great to meander, philosophize and see some sites. App Juic is truly my brother from another. Not only is he an incredible writer and performance poet, he has also been working in a school a block from his house, straight MS 88 Park Slope style. Walking around the neighborhood, uniformed schoolkids greet him with a “Good day Mr. Appl Juic” or “Hello Sir.” We kicked some corner freestyles for a few young chaps, which was a nice throwback to the BK block.

The walk gave us a chance to really build on the state of the credit-crunched economy, underserved public schools, life in gentrifying regions, youth in public estates, grime, indy Hip Hop, electoral politics, football loyalties, international collabing and The Tetris Effect.

Yes, The Tetris Effect. Wikipedia it for yourself, but basically, the Tetris Effect is a physical/psychological product of playing too much Tetris. As in, seeing block shapes everywhere, unconsciously thinking how real-life shapes fit into one another; really bugged stuff. So this became the topic for our new joint.

Here’s my half of the lyrics (we trade 16 bar verse twice) below. This is gonna be a sick track.

Much love to Appl J and Sarah for putting me up for the stay, to all the venue owners for holding us down and to the good peoples I met along the way. And wait till the NYC schoolkids peep the Grime DVD (“Barcode”) that the Juic hit me off with. Talk about young kids spitting fire, on some straight skills. Woooo…

Back in Praha it is. Kid Lucky, Tah Phrum Duh Bush and Dyalekt touched down yesterday, with Farbeon, Hired Gun and Core Rhythm on the way. We hit national tv this Saturday on the Pavel Andel show, warm up to Hob-n-Nob with a Prague Subway Series or two. But before that I’m heading to Czeski Bujdovice with Philip TBC tomorrow night to rock a Drum and Bass Party! TBC is an original head and basically regarded as the illest d-n-b DJ in the Czech, so this shit is no joke. We have been working on some tracks together and I have been freestyling over so much 150+ bpm beatbox beats that it is prime time to set it off for the dance crowd.

Send some East Coast Indian Summer to Central Europe. We need some sunshine.

Starve a cold, feed a flu,


The Tetris Effect

As the climate changes and the crime is contagious
I maintain and still rely on the kindness of strangers
Lie on the pullout couch and chillout for days
Record raps with Appl J and be jacks of the same trade
While the Union Jack mastheads manufacture blame
Till you think every Hackney schoolkid is packing a blade
All this crap on the brain is a capital gain for the
cackling cash registers with a catheter’s aim
And that’s to redirect the piss and moaning of the brick-toting opponents
Who tip toe towards the moment of overthrowing
I build Brooklyn Bridges like John Roebling
Have charges ready to roll like time zones phones and roaming
Fine combing the grays relaying the layman’s struggle
4000 miles away from the rubble of Lehman Brothers
Among the toppled blocks are stairways to new heights
Maybe it’s just a question of rotating the shapes two rights

Blocks keep dropping
Lines keep locking
Heads keep nodding
That’s the Tetris Effect

Trapped by the habit
Always trying to stack it
Trying not to panic
It’s Tetris Effect

An exercise in lifestyle sacrifice call me Lil Dap
Trying to get my group holmes with scarcely little cash
Carrying a cache of brash statements
Dirty socks Turkish kebabs
And the weight of American hatred
If you thought Marion Barry was scary with cocaine
Then he pales in comparison to Sarah Palin and McCain
The calendar might say we have 44 days
Left until the polls register we voted change
But blowing my brain is the American way
Coupled with arrogance merriment and general disdain
My hope hangs on good faith and the need to prosper
And the time I took to read Obama’s “Dreams From My Father”
And I’ll tell you I’m too cynical to claim he’s apostle
But I’ll be damned if I the vice-president’s a blanking Pentecostal
Speaking in tongues is my job and I’ve been rocking the road
Opening doors wondering if I want to go home

Friday, September 12, 2008

I heart PRG

Phew... Noon o'clock the day after "The Better Bomb" dropped on Prague City. I am utterly depleted, wiped out, sore, spent... elated, exuberant, relieved, thrilled... moved, mystified, gracious, humbled...

The entire day yesterday was an end to end burner. DJ Rectape didn't arrive from Strasbourg until 6:00pm. Soundcheck stared with the band at 5:00pm, so we had to hustle to get to Lucerna by 7:30pm to check the DJ sound and, um, rehearse our part of the show together. We got to run the essential transitions and feel it out. I wasn't really worried; just wanted to get on the same page. No problem. The 2 hours leading up to the show were a blur of interviews with Bedna TV, meeting and greeting all the industry heads (clothiers, radio DJs, sponsor reps) and keeping tab on the time.

When the needles dropped, it was all butter. 90 minutes of ascending Hip Hoppery, commencing with the classic MC/DJ formation, sprinkling in the beatboxers, showcasing the beatboxers and the DJ, then bringing out the band and the lovely vocalist to bring down the house.

All the artists that rocked with me were so professional, so ill and so chill. It was such a treat to work with y'all. The show looked like a well-rehearsed machine, when in fact it was a seat of the pants snowball. I'd have it no other way. There was so much potential energy unleashed on Lucerna. Truly magical and completely cathartic.

The crowd was tremendous; not quite as large as we'd hoped, but for my first solo billed show in a foreign city, it was overwhelming. Knowing how hard it is to get 100 heads to a show in New York City (after 8 years of grinding there!) leaves me awestruck in light of 150+ heads on another continent, during only my third visit to Prague and first European tour. We busted our asses promoting, got a lot of love from the media outlets, had a ton of good friends in the building and put on a magnificent show. It felt like a treat for everyone there to get such a heavy dose of balanced live Hip Hop; the most humbling thing is the crowd's response: despite not understanding 75% - 100% of what I'm saying, cats were showing so much love and really rocking to the vibes.

So many of the struggles within the music world and entertainment industry are the same everywhere: the true school ethos pitted against the commercial faux gangsters; the big money pork barrelers versus the independent idealist; the party for the ego or the party for the people... It is affirming and uplifting to connect with so many dope human beings from around the world and put together another dream show. The international vision is surely being realized, and every passport stamp is a badge of courage, determination and connectivity. I said it last night and I'll say it again today: best September 11 ever. It was not just coincidence to have the chance to release "Building the Better Bomb" on this unforgettable and shamefully mis-appropriated day. The gravity of the timing was very real for me. For the last 6 years, the last place I wanted to be on 9/11 was NYC, or America for that matter. It is with complete and total gratitude that I bow to to all the musicians that rocked with me (Tomas, Jan, Split, Velocity, Noemi, Jaro, Nasty, Ivanhoe, Dowis, Rectape), to everyone who came out and built, and to my mellow Kuzell. We are on the way brother. Da Ska makes me Say Word.

Thanks again Praha. I loves me some CZ. Can't wait to have the BK crew deep here for Hob-n-Nob on Septmeber 27.

The audio, video and pics from the show are forthcoming. Of course, I only took pics before and after, and neglected to give anyone my camera or flip video. But Bedna TV shot the show with 3 cameras, we recorded separate 16 track audio off the sound board, and there were mad other photographers there, so please hit me off with pics if you have any. I'm saying: this tour DVD is going to be awesome.

Again, much love to everyone who had a hand in making last night so special.

Peace, Love and Blessings,


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Summer Break Tour Journal Part III Vol. 2: Hip Hop Kemp

"Summer Breaks" adventures at Hip Hop Kemp in Hradec Karlove in the Czech Republic. Farbeon, Rabbi D, Baba & Yako, Beatburger Band...Part III Vol 2 coming soon... Hollers!


I had the first of two rehearsals with the band for the release party last night, and good lord... Not like I wasn't excited enough already. Now the anticipation is through the roof. Crazy arrangement: drums (Tomas from Navigators), bass (Jan from Toxique) and TWO KEYBOARD players (Split & Velocity from United Flavor). These cats rolled up soooo professional, with music transcribed from album songs (yes, they broke sample-based songs down into individual instrumental parts), with samples from songs pre-loaded into keyboards, and amazing energy. I'm so grateful for all of the hours at Sin Sin and the band from the BTBB NYC release party, all of which have helped me develop the ability to communicate with musicians on stage, even when we don't really speak the same language. Big ups to Tomas for holding down bandleading duties, and huge props to Kuzell for masterminding this ensemble.

After the rehearsal last night I had the pleasure of being the midnight guest on Radio One with the legendary DJ Kaya. Word is that this cat was the original Czech reggae selector, going back 22 years. He is hella revered here, and has deep stacks of the irie vibes. But apparently, he was a little reluctant to have a Hip Hop guest. With some convincing from original head Alesh One, we were able to make the spot happen. And I was loving Kaya's face throughout the interview. He played 4 joints off of the album, and then we cyphered; first, I put Alesh on the spot for his beatbox debut, and then I spit a verse acapella from this new joint "Believe it or Not." I never get over the sensation of debunking Hip Hop stereotypes, and last night was an exercise in exactly that.

Much respect to DJ Kaya, Alesh One for working it out, Gee Haad, Sharka, Linda and Dowis for rolling thick.

And Dowis: my heart goes out to you. My man was telling my the story of a dog fight breaking out at his parent's house, between their own two dogs! Basically, the big one clamped down on the little one's neck over some KFC bones, and tore her apart. Some people have an incredible knack for animating story telling, and seeing him replay trying to corral the injured, shivering little one ("Bubble") was intense. But they got her to the vet, and he thinks she will be okay after a month's recovery. Some folks have lived the lives of ten before they turn 30. Strength to you, my brother, and get better before tomorrow. We've got a show to rock!

Ayight, commence le jour. The final countdown begins: laundry, work on a track with Philip TBC, rehearsal part II, await DJ Rectape's arrival, and visualize.

Boudejeme lepshe bombu.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Believe It Or Not

Believe it or not we’re reaching your spot
Gonna bump the speaker box
Till we’re reaching to the top

I’m reaching across the media frost the immediate costs of crossing seas and seeing like broth
The ingredients to mediate the chicken noodle cream of soylent green
Developing the buoyancy to point me free
The point of being human is meeting humans and reconvening to exhume the ruins that’re a product of years of moving
Gears and shifting evolution is a mission not a fact of nature
Live right now then ask me later how I stayed above the equator
Never catered to haters
Still managed to skill the scratch and fader
Masquerader rapping in a native tongue to raise the young
If they can work a PSP then they can probably program drums
Tommy run home
Connie Chung’s on
Plug in bug out to the world of the dumb zone
You done no wrong what’s right is easy
It’s hard to see the light through the Yeezys and Weezys
I call them all Cheesy
Chester like the cheetah
Bonita Bonita Bonita

Believe it or not we’re reaching your spot
Gonna bump the speaker box
Till we’re reaching to the top

It all starts with the cypher catch me in the middle
Where the world turns slows and the forces are centrifugal
Words like longitude beatbox axis
Latitude skats on years of practice
So many miles logged that the maps are useless
Days into shows and the shows to rubrics
Rated on acoustics the food the peeps
The head count the merch sales the hours of sleep
But when the crowd is deep
I’m going in going in
Calling Card Rabbi D do you know the pin
Plug it in to the Vodaphone lock and send
For that Brooklyn Babylon like Spragga Benz
Now the Gods ascend and we’re rolling with Goddesses
Knotted with the novices Unity and optimists
Community and consciousness awesomeness
Now get your head up out the ground like an ostrich

Believe it or not we’re reaching your spot
Gonna bump the speaker box
Till we’re reaching to the top

How mics can I rip on the daily originality is my sickness
So ch-ch-check out my malady
Second class travels for the first class working class
Lou Reed perfect day pray like church and mass
Dirty hands from tags and old cans
Promoting in foreign streets bi-lingual on programs
To visit this old land a blessing like romance
Connect with my Old Earth bewilder my old man
The fact of the matter is it just a stones throw
Away from the culture that we grow in our own home
It’s a Hip Hop Hostel save the hostility
Build with me as verse 3 completes the trilogy
Russian graff heads Swiss beatbox queens
French Turntableast and German emcees
Mujik in Prague where we kick it in Zizkov
Ex-pat rappers who left because they’re pissed off
Dutch producers and Italian B-girls
Old school writers new to the free world
Legends in their own right a pleasure to chill
International relations: Real Recognize Real

Things Europeans Do Better

In alphabetical order:

Beer: Pivo. Bier. Cerveja. The further east I go, the better it gets. It’s pretty tough to beat a Pilsner Urquell draft, though the Czech bartenders swear it is better in the bottle. Seriously, when do you savor the head of a beer? “Oh please, top off my Miller Lite draft with some more foam…” Nope. And it is true: the beer is cheaper than water. 20 KC for a half-liter (about $1.20). Czech Republic is not for the weak-hearted carb counter.

Bread: cheaper, multi-grainier, fresh baked. The diet of the peasant is the diet of the touring rapper. Toss in a couple pieces of fresh fruit, a half-liter of pivo and a hunk of cheese (see below) and I’m sated. The baked goodness also contributes to the superiority of Tabac/Trafika/Bodega pre—packaged sandwiches. You wouldn’t expect to get a decent salami hoagie from a Shell gas station at 2am, but let me tell you, it’s possible. Pizza, on the other hand, is still a work in progress. I mean, seriously, you don’t have to put salmon on everything.

Dairy Products: milk, yogurt, chocolate, cheese. Couple this fact with the variety of great breads and you have some dietary irregularities, but some fantastic snacks. Your household isn’t complete without a non-stick sandwich maker. Grilled cheese 5 times a day☺ And you know how Canada/Britain had the “Aero” bar but we didn’t? Multiply that jealousy ten-fold. Lion bars, Lindt and Sprugli goodness, Lykodors… I could go on. The milk bugs me out a bit: non-refrigerated and boxed. Seems very space age, but it gets the job done.

Graffiti: it is everywhere, first of all. I know there are some spots in NYC that are laced, but lord, every train ride in and out of a city is like rolling by a living museum. Berlin was out of control, a fact that one can connect to the history of visual artistic expression on the Wall itself; Holland was wild as well, but everything was slightly “enhanced” there; Prague is simply incredible. Mind you, I’m getting the graf tour from my man Dowis, a pioneering Hip Hopper who is regarded as probably the greatest writer in Czech graffiti history. The Praha “Walls of Fame” are 2 km long stretches of murals and LEGAL SPACES! The throw ups around town are incessant, and the burners at the legal galleries are incredible. At Dowis’ club “Pantheon” (maybe the only underground Hip Hop & graffiti club in the world of its kind: see “Sketch Battle Mondays”) I have met writers from Germany, Russia, Holland, UK… They share their stories, pictures and black books as they wait for the morning to snap a pic of the train cars that they bombed earlier that night. It’s inspiring to see youth culture so hellbent on getting up. And seeing true school Hip Hop in it’s nascent stages, based on graffiti, beatboxing and jamming, is kind of like time traveling. I have had this sense that the development of Hip Hop culture repeats itself in nearly every country it reaches: begins with graf, breaking and DJing, then becomes MC-centric, co-opted and commercialized. The progression is expedited based on precedent, but the resistance to corporate stylings and marketable bullshit is omni-present. Hence, the kids stay loyal to the spray can. And I think this also explains why American “underground” rappers eat so well in Europe. The True School aesthetic is valued here, so artists like Masta Ace and Redman and groups like EMC and Non-Phixon are huge! When I give my friends the low-down the domestic (un)popularity of these cats, they are like, “W-w-wait. EMC is not on the radio?” The graffiti mentality runs constant through Hip Hop culture here, which explains a lot. No one lives Hip Hop quite as ruggedly as writers, and that lifestyle is oozing into my soul. Maybe it’s because I did my first piece on the Prague “Wall of Fame…”

Environmentalism: bikes bikes more bikes, economy sized cars and efficient public transportation. What more can you ask for? NYC does it right for the most part, but I also do my part to bike my ass off around town. Come on: how hard is it to have a display clock in each train station telling riders when the next train is due? You haven’t seen a bike rack until you’re seen them in Holland: Amsterdam has BICYCLE PARKING GARAGES for crying out loud. 3 levels and thousands of bikes. They (along with Berlin) also have public bikes, which you can access by calling a number, punching in your pin, and unlocking the chain remotely. As far as the cars: rarely do I see anything much bigger than a 4-door hatchback. Comparatively, European roadways make U.S. streets look like exercises in idiocy. Downsize, bike more, strive for fuel efficiency. Or wage oil war against the third world. Oh, oops.

Music Festivals: Granted it is festival season, so I am getting my fill, but heads know how to do it right. From the sound systems to the venues to the diversity in acts (and the cheap beer; did I mention the cheap beer?) they are a blast. So far in the CZ I have borne witness to Hip Hop Kemp (the biggest Underground Hip Hop Culture Fest in Europe), Semtex Culture and Joyride. Joyride was yesterday, and is an extreme sports and music festival. I saw some motorcross jumping, waveriding, dope reggae from United Flavor and BMX tricksters. Did I mention it was free? The sound is always banging, the crowds are love-filled and the people always eager to grab a promotional flyer. Yes, I said it. Folks are actually coming up to me to grab flyers.

I’m sure there’s a lot to be said for Universal Health Care and public assistance, but thus far, fortunately, I haven't had to experience either one of the aforementioned. This list is also a reflection of my reading material on this trip: Bukowksi, Neruda, Chomsky. Some boozing, some romanticizing, a whole of political sciencing. My kind of living.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Video Journal Part II: Berlin to Prague & Live from Kemp

A couple more videos from the road. The footage is stacking up and the clock is always running, so I've been running low on time to edit, but I'm up through our first stop in Prague. Working on the Hip Hop Kemp highlight reel, but here's a clip of Farbeon and I rocking "Hustle" at the Vestax Hangar on Sunday night.

It's been a mad media tour leading up to the release party next Thursday, on top of the DJ grind in Prague and party planning. But the good news is that my man DJ Rectape is coming from Strasbourg to hold me down on the 1&2s at Lucerna Music bar, and the band is going to be off the meter. The insanity of it all is that Rectape doesn't arrive until the afternoon of the day of the show, and rehearsals with the band don't start till Tuesday night. But I'm not worried; the beauty of the power of Hip Hop improvisation always prevails.

A more comprehensive literary update is in the works. Just some multi-media for the meantime...

Say Word "Summer Breaks" Video Journal Part II: Berlin to Prague

"Hustle" Live at Hip Hop Kemp

Friday, August 29, 2008

Prague to Kemp to Holland to Berlin to Prague

If the subject is any indication of the kind of week it's been, then bear with me. This is the first time I've been able to sit at a computer sans the Internet Cafe clock running since last Friday. It has been an amazing and exhausting week that took us from Prague to Hradec Kralove for the mind-blowing Hip Hop Kemp, then to Den Haag and Amsterdam on 0 hours sleep. Farbeon and I parted ways on Tuesday, when I headed to Berlin to rock alongside Baba, Yako and DJ Kevlar at Casseopeia for Beatevolution, chill for 2 days with some fresh folks (shouts to Maria, MC Bad Kat, Eyesiss, Stef la Chef, B.SKi, Akrobatic) and catch lots of live music, live graffiti and breaking. Finally left Berlin on 0 hours of sleep this morning and headed back to Prague, where I'm DJing tonight with Tempe, AZ homey DJ Geehaad, and then rocking a double-booked day with Beatburger band tomorrow, first in Prague and then in Brno. Needless to say, I'd really dig on a shower and a pillow. Someday, someday...

I'm working on a much more in-depth recap of the insanity of Hip Hop Kemp and Berlin Part II, so in the meantime, check out the sick photos (courtesy of Far-tography) and the video of Farbeon and I rocking "Hustle" at the Vestax Hangar at Kemp (the whole festival is held on an abandoned Air Force Base).

For now, peace, love, endurance and self-assurance. All fatigue and fuzz aside, this is the time of my life. Much love to Farbeon. My brother, we made it. The road is long, hold your head up high... You may need to come back and extradite me in 5 weeks:) And Baba & Yako: you are gurus and laughing buddhas with an amazing haze around your Subphonik aura. Thanks for hospitality, skill-age and build-age. Kevlar and Pix: mi familia. If we run into each other anywhere else in the world we're gonna need to invest in the 269 European Annex.Till the next...

(Cue Young Hova voice)"I'm focused maaaaan!"



Stef la Chef, Eyeris, Akrobatic, MC Bad Kat, Rabbi D in Berlin @ Baambi

"Hustle" Live at Hip Hop Kemp, Hradec Kralove, CZ

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Hip Hop You Don't Stop

The fact that I haven’t had a spare second to write (let alone sleep) is a sheer indication of the madness that has ensued since leaving France. Hip Hop, you don’t stop. After a lengthy foot tour de force of Berlin, with a rest stop to cypher with some kids and sell some product, we ended the night with a doner kebab and a mostly decent night’s sleep at the Hotel Karibum. Truthfully, Berlin was looking a bit glum and quite expensive after 1 day.

Day 2 in Berlin proved much more fruitful, enjoyable, and entertaining. We roamed the museum district early on, which is nearly all under construction. Then we caught up on our newly developed tradition of working in the internet café while draining Berliner Pilsners. We had been planning on checking out Beatevolution at Club Cassiopeia, and Far also caught wind of a Yarah Bravo “UNITY” show the same night. After logging some mileage, we managed to make the rounds and hit both shows. Cassiopeia was slow goings, as it was early, but what an amazing space. A graffiti playground, skatepark, two stages and an outdoor café. Bam. Hopefully we’ll make it back to Berlin this week to catch Baba & Yako rip it there.

The treat of the night was found at Bohannon, a live music club with a sick sound system in Alexanderplatz. The “UNITY” Tour is an all-female road show of international superstars, curated by Yarah Bravo. In Berlin, we got to check Marya from Italy, Stacy Epps from ATL, Miss Flint, Shania D and a slew of other amazing women. Then it opened up into a jam session, and Far and I got the chance to rock it alongside this amazing collective. A magical moment of coincidences and connections falling into place to result in a sweet night.

The following morning, we bought tickets for our 10:46am train to Prague at… 10:48am. So we caught the 12:46pm train to Prague, which is a beautiful ride through mountainous German countryside, past Dresden on the way. Upon arriving in Prague, we were tossed right into the mix at Pantheon with Dowis, where there was a graffiti installation opening Thursday night. We were able to chill, get acquainted with the newly minted “Pantheon” (formerly “Sabotage”) and ease into Praha. The rest of the Beat Apetit crew was already out at Hip Hop Kemp setting up shop…

On Friday, we slept in and had to rush to make a radio show appearance at Radio Spin 98.2 with Dowis and the big homey Alesh One. Had to get the promo in before the show at Pantheon that night with the Brooklyn posse. Baba & Yako arrived in the afternoon, and we all convened at Pantheon for the show. Very dope night, great crowd, ill sets from everyone and a lovely spin on the turns by DJ Kevlar.

So Saturday. We packed up again and headed out to Hip Hop Kemp, courtesy of Kuzellski. Now, Kemp is the second biggest Hip Hop festival in Europe, something around 20,000 people. It is held at an old Air Force base, with stages in hangars and people camping everywhere (“Kemp” = “Camp”). Based on those few facts, we were entirely unprepared for the scene upon rolling up. It is literally a Hip Hop playground. Music everywhere, breakdance battles, beatbox battles, 3 sick side stages, a huge mainstage, and incredible heartfelt Hip Hop energy and love oozing from every country in Europe. The crowd represents so many nations, and the performers do the same. Pretty unbelievable to have to travel to the middle of the Czech Republic to have to find an event of this magnitude and caliber, but, wow.

The Beat Apetit crew is holding down the Beatburger Health Food tent, with mad cyphers in the mix. The whole set is in effect: Jaro, Nasty, En.dru, Kuzell, Alesh, Ivanhoe, Johnny Typek… Deep. Over the course of yesterday, we rocked 3 different stages for about 3000 different heads, popping up on guest spots and beatbox cameos. Also got to check some very dope shows: Akrobatik and Mr. Lif, The Navigators on the main stage, and another slamming series of sets at the UNITY stage: Stacy Epps, Invincible, Eternia, DJ Shortee, DJ Sarah Love and Yarah Bravo. Simply bananas. As Farbeon keeps saying, if you want to see the avant garde in Hip Hop, you need to check these ladies for real. Big ups to Eternia for hooking us up with the mic at the UNITY stage, and maximum respect to Yarah Bravo for seeing her vision realized. Inspiron!

Well, this is merely my attempt to chronologically organize the insanity of the past 4 days (4 days, 5 days?). Today we will be holding down the Beatburger stage, catch the UNITY ladies on the main stage, check The Roots, and then rock the last sets of the whole festival over at the Vestax Hangar at midnight. Then Farbeon and I head directly to the airport in Prague to catch a 6am flight to Amsterdam! Not quite sure how this is all going to work out, but the power of Hip Hop and the strength of brother and sisterhood is getting us through everything.

Kemp Kemp and more Kemp,

Rebbe D

Definitely gonna have some time to edit all this incredible video footage in Amsterdam, so stay tuned for the Video Journal, Part II. And probably III with all the crazy HHK footage!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Video Journal Part I: BK to Stasbourg

Just gonna let the video (and my mediocre yet improving imovie skills) do the talking... Enjoy!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

8 Gold Medals later

If it weren’t for the river driven fresh air permeating Strasbourg (aka Bourgstras), I would be having a difficult time catching my breath. A whirlwind-crab scratch-freestyle cyclone touched down when we hit the cobblestone, and finally whirs to a slow hum tonight.

We hit the ground running on Wednesday night, chilling with the incredibly hospitable Turnableast Crew. Farbeon has been crashing with DJ Q, while I’ve been kicking it at DJ Rectape’s. The whole crew lives in the neighborhood Neudorf, within walking distance of each other. We woke on Thursday to plaster the town with party flyers and take the walking tour of Strasbourg, courtesy of l’homme extraordinaire Perco Loco. Before we knew it, it was time to pack gear for the soiree a La Grotte. And it ain’t called the Grotte for nothing. One of those straight dungeonous European clubs, underneath the street and sweaty as the man in the iron mask. The crowd filled in pretty quickly, and Turntableast rocked the party silly. We hit the stage at around 1:30am and did a full blast 40 minute set. Worked out some kinks, had Rectape hold us down on the decks, dealt with some sound issues… and tore it up. It was mostly a relief to get the first show out of the way, figure out how to read the foreign language crowd and test-drive some new routines. But enough about us…

The real treat was the turntable tactics on display by the fellas. One of Turntableast, DJ Nelson, is a 2007 & 2008 French DMC Finalist, and winner of France TKO Battle. Basically, this cat has the illest scratches I’ve ever laid eyes on. I mean, like, Q-Bert status. Riveting stuff. So, the crew rocked the crunk/club/booty bass dance party as we proceeded to get, um, toe up. Once the club closed at 4am, we kicked it backstage boozing, beatbox karaoke-ing, freestyling and building. After packing up and sneaking out through a back door (to avoid le police posted out front), we made it back to Rectape’s at 6:30am. And then hauled all the DJ equipment up the 3 floors to his apartment:) Good vibes go out to DJ Swa, whose car was towed and impounded by le flics. Po-po’s wreaking havoc everywhere…

So, rising Friday at 3:00pm, we met up with Rec’s homey Niko, aka Hon. Hon is a producer/AV engineer at a high-end studio in Keil, just across the Rhine River in Germany. We went to check out the lab and made studio plans for Sunday. And then just like that, it was time to re-pack all the DJ gear and hit the highway to Colmar, where we were booked to rock “Cimarron Lakside Soundsystem 2008.”

About 40 minutes into the countryside drive, it got a little nervous. Sort of like driving into the woods a la Brothers Grimm. The only directions instructed that the party was “avant le maison d’eau” (before the water tower). Okay. So we arrived to a pretty disheartening scene. It had rained all day, the party was not even close to set up, and it was 9:30pm. I will make a long story short and let the soon-to-come pictures and video do the talking. DJs didn’t start playing till midnight, the other live act was a French folk guitar rap act, and the keg tap was busted. Finally the beer started flowing, the merguez sausages were grilling and the peoples partied. By the time we hit the stage at 4:30AM heads were either slumped near the bonfire or hepped up on dancehall. Far and I hit them with a reggae-centric half hour that had the woods howling. After blowing the roof off of the outdoor party, the organizer walked back up to us with two microphones, nodded to the soundman, handed us the mics and simply said, “Freestyle.” So the cypher blazed until le matin, and for the second straight day, we saw the sunrise. The only difference was that we were 60 kilometers from home, and had to be at DJ Q’s radio show at 10:00am!

We pulled into Strasburg at about 8:00am, caught a shower, hit the boulangerie and rolled over to RBS Radio 91.9. Still 5 deep (Q, Rectape, Far, Perco Loco, Fred aka DJ Deriv and myself), we took turns passing out on the “couch of mysterious stains” until the needles dropped. Then Far and I did an on-air interview, rocked the freestyles, and I DJ’d a 30 minute set. Hotness for the underground broadcast radio. Afterwards, there was no option other than passing the fuck out.

Saturday night was our chance to give back to our divine hosts. I cooked a feast for the crew, and we chilled at Q’s, listening to jazz, eating, drinking and moroccing. Then we hit the Strasbourg streets deep along with Lyrics, DJ Nelson and Rom One (ill beatboxer) for a Hip Hop stroll. Strasbourg is a city with small town vibe, so every 4 blocks we ran into someone who someone knew. Without even trying, we found ourselves up at 4:00am again. But our timing was perfect to return to Q’s, eat leftovers and watch Michael Phelps win gold medal #8.

Semi-caught up on sleep today, waking at 1:30pm in the afternoon. We promptly met up with Niko and hit Time Code Studios. In a 6-hour session, we knocked out 3 tracks. Took an intermission to Niko & NoNo’s (his lady) house, where we were fed, overfed, and sensory satiated entirely. NoNo even called ahead to Berlin to hook us up with a hotel she recommended. Seriously, this girl cooked a fantastic feast, speaks fluent French, German, Spanish and English, and politicked U.S. foreign policy with us for 2 hours. Magnifique. When you guys come to New York, you are getting royal Rabbi D backyard BBQ treatment.

Back to the lab to catch the rough mix bounces. Outstanding session. Far and I did two tracks together over beats by Hon, one (tentatively) called “Timecode” (aka “Currency Exchange”) and another called (tentatively) “Yes He Is.” The first, we had been writing on for 2 days. The second, I devised the hook on Friday, and we full-on freestyled the verses, trading off and punching in on each other. Far also laid down the beautiful ode, “Shape My Life,” over a sensational sentimental track by Rectape.

So as I bed on Sunday, we have tomorrow to relax in picturesque Strasbourg. The plan is to edit some photos and video, and ready the multi-media tour update. We’ve got some incredible footage thus far, and I’m sharpening my chops on imovie:)

Nearly off to Berlin…

Bon soiree,

Schooly D

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Time Zonin': The Dollar vs the Euro

After a monstrous day of errand running, luggage buying, rapid packing and rushed departing, we made it JFK with Budweiser time to spare. As pictures and video can only partially illustrate, we have massive bags. As I would later find out, my two pieces of checked baggage ring in at 55 kilos combined. Lugging the luggage was a mere formality under the spell of adrenaline and optimism.

On the way out of NYC, we laid eyes up the fullest, brightest, most magnificent rainbow I’d ever seen. Simply breathtaking. A good omen?

The Air India flight was about what I expected, complete with chicken curry and mini-samosas. Smooth trasn-Atlantic journey, but, oh, that was merely the beginning of the day. Arriving at London Heathrow at 8:00hr, our next task was to change airports. We had to get to Stansted to catch the Ryanair flight to Karls-Bande, where we would then rendez-vous with DJ Rectape and T-Killa and drive to Strasbourg, just over the German border in France. The airport jaunt turned out to be a nearly 3 hour bus ride. Z’s all the way. Walking into Stansted was a like entering Ellis Island on a light day in 1898. Utter madness. Lines with no end, passengers yet no airline employees. Fortunately we had about 6 hours to kill before our flight.

We enter Stansted swinging.

Somewhere around hour 4 of time killing, I read some of the fine print on the Ryanair e-ticket. It is a “discount” airline, designed for the European day commuter, and built to royally screw anyone with over 15 kilos of luggage. Basically, the fine print read that the overweight charge is “12 GBP per kg over 15 kgs.” Considering I have over 55 kgs of shit, the “overcharge” was painful, to put it mildly. If you needed anything else to slam on the Bush administration, tack on the weakness of the U.S. dollar. Cringe-worthy prices. Big shouts out to Jacob from Ryanair. But be forewarned: “discount European” airlines can quickly become anything but cheap. If you have a choice, avoid Ryaniar at all costs. Real talk.

But we are here, all the merchandise made it overseas, and we’re readying to rock Strasbourg ce soir. Incredibly beautiful border city, across the Rhine River from Germany. Magical streets, lovely hosts. Turnableast crew is great peoples; it’s a dream realized to chill with global Hip Hoppers in NYC, then rendez-vous with them in their homeland. But, hey, that’s the theme of this trip.

“Summer Breaks” is taking on more meanings than I ever could’ve imagined…

Ciao for now,