Where to start, where to stop? Well, maybe best with a quote from the very man with whom we’ve been sharing the stage and road for the last week, one Justice Allah (see “MCee” from “All of the Above”). It has been a hurricane of 6 days, and a rarity to be sitting in the eye long enough to collect my thoughts, let alone blog them down. Sofia to Berlin to Leipzig to Hip Hop Kemp, finally to Prague today. It fortunately feels enough like home here to catch my breath and capture this past week in words…
Far Photography 2009
Arrived in Berlin and got right into the mix of the local underground scene. Farbeon has been building with the Berlin heads for a minute and is really plugged into the happenings. On Tuesday and Wednesday we hit some nice spots: Tuesday was EOW Berlin, a cypher style open mic in the most pure sense. Two turntables, one mic, a circle and a bunch of sick emcees. We rocked the jam for 4 straight hours, no break, no fresh air. DJs IGadget and Bulet hold it down weekly and the MCs who rock it are fire! We kicked it hard with Alibi, the EOW Berlin champ and an insane freestyler. Next level, 10 styles, tri-lingual. The Germanic syllabic structure is not the prettiest, smoothest on the linguistic scale, but there were a few MCs knocking the sauerkraut out of it. We’re rocking next weekend both Friday and Saturday with these cats, outdoors on the Alexanderplatz Friday and on the main stage at Cassiopeia on Saturday night!
On Wednesday the 3rd Party Voltron formation was completed on a foreign continent for only the second time ever, and the first for an extensive run. The Hired Gun arrived and we spent the day at the Jewish Museum before we all rolled out to Berlin’s finest weekly Hip Hop party, “Beatevolution” at Cassiopeia (which Get Up Stand Up rocked back on August 12). The party has been running for almost 6 years and is organized by Le Bob, who is a 5 Star dude. He has had a complete run of the underground “who’s who” roster bless the stage during this time, and it is a real pleasure building and chilling with him. The feature this week was one Miles Bonny, a soul singer/horn player from Kansas. This cast brought some serious chops to the stage, both as vocalist and trumpeter. He killed a set full of original joints and some tasteful covers, and was then joined by saxophonist Charles Cooper (of J. Rawls “Liquid Crystal Project”) for some riffing. Le Bob worked it out for me to jump on stage and do a bit of beatbox/jazz horn improvising with them. Check the footage for the result!
Far Photography 2009
Thursday we hit the ground running to reconvene with J-Live and Truemaster, who had just arrived back in Berln after a 4 day trip back to the U.S. to rock a show after 4 days in Europe. We all rendez-voused at the Berlin Hofbanhohf and jumped the train to Leipzig, 90 minutes southeast of Berlin, to rock a venue called Conne Island (pronounced just like “Coney Island”) and roll out the full-force GUSU show.
We were met at the train station by Roland, our driver, in an 8-person Mercedes van (let’s call it a “cargo limo”). We didn’t have much time before soundcheck, so we dropped our bags at the hotel, took a 15 minutes Leipzig stroll and headed over to Conne Island.
Much like Cassiopeia, it’s more than a concert venue: skate park, café, restaurant, small stage, big stage, graffiti everywhere. We were slated to be rocking the smaller stage (it’s festival season, so the clubs economize) to a packed house on a blazing hot day in Leipzig.
The promoter, Andre, had dinner and a stocked fridge waiting for us in the Green Room. Hotels, hot meals, cold beer…. I could get used to this style of traveling. Local DJ Anna held down the decks before the show, dropping lots of underground classics and keeping the vibe very Dilla-esque (a similarity to both Berlin parties; they love the progressive underground out here!). 3rd Party hit the stage with Truemaster and rocked till the walls were sweating (it was literally 96 Degrees in the space). The stage itself was pretty cramped, but we kept it dynamic and moving with a set of group joints, half-versions of solo cuts and some lovely beatbox/vocal jamming. Had the crowd worked up into a seroiosu frenzy. True Huey kept it crisp on the decks for us, and then kept it moving right into Justice’s set.
It’s pretty mind-blowing to enjoy this tour from the artist perspective, the global traveler’s journal and the Hip Hop superfan’s stageside seat. I have seen J-Live rock probably 15 times in the new millennium, and it never gets any less fantastic. The man is a stage scientist, blazing through his catalog, mastering hooks and call and response, pace changes and freestyle… then he DJs and raps at the same time. Give him 30 minutes or 2 hours and he builds a climactic set that never fails to leave the crowd calling for more. 150 or 1500 fingers tapping the air to “Them That’s Not,” or one person seeing “Braggin’ Writes” for the first time; it’s a bar-setting Hip Hop show that gives me equal parts elation, education and inspiration. The man never really stopped teaching.
So the blog action is in catch-up mode right now, and 2009 Hip Hop Kemp is going to get service all of it’s own. It’s on to 4 days working out of DaSka homebase in Prague city with the Hob-n-Nob familia, rocking Pantheon tonight and the big show at Chapeau Rouge on Thursday with Beatburger Band and Philip TBC. We’ll be celebrating the single release from TBC’s new album that I feature on called “Czech Yourself,” and 3P will be rocking an hour-long set. Brrrrrap!
Far Photography 2009