Wednesday, August 12, 2009

GUSU #1: Bloggin-A-Right!


Get Up, Stand Up, sit down, drag bag, take-off, touch down, passport, speak French, Paris, re-lax, birthday, par-tay, board train, high speed, Chunnel, England, Far B, Zaja, accents, no sleep, much rain, two shows, Ap Juic, Hackney, Baba, Contact, move merch, stickers, picnic, hit road, Get Up Stand Up!

Week 1 of the tour in a two-syllable comma-laden-prose nutshell. The legs and back are a bit weary after 7 days of being the object in motion until another force or object acts upon that object to affect its movement. Despite the fact that I’m zipping underneath the English Channel aboard the Eurostar at the moment, the ride is smooth enough to compose my thoughts and reflect on a tremendous jumpoff to this European adventure, as much personal as professional, friend-tional as fuctional.

After a barn-burning couple of weeks in NYC leading up to departure, I crossed the Atlantic as I did for the first time ever, at age 17: alongside my homey Stephen. We flew into Paris, which I hadn’t set eyes upon since 1996. We arrived just in time to celebrate his birthday, rent bikes and get re-acquainted with the breathtaking streets and sites (and dust some of the rust off of my school-age French). It was an utter throwback to the days of backpacking and Eurorailing: logging 10’s of kilometers of walking, sipping wine by canals, rolling by futbol stadiums, running through parks and practicing off-beat tourism. We made serious tracks from the Louvre to Le Boit de Vincennes to the Eiffel Tour to the Parc de Prince, following the seductive curves of the Seine well into the early morning hours bathed in fullmoonlight. The quirkiest/nerdiest/coolest thing we did was check out the 35-year residency of Corbusier, “the father of modernism.” He lived on the top two floors of a building he designed on the outskirts of the west of Paris, very close to Stade Roland Garros and Parc de Prince, homes of the French Open and PSG soccer club, respectively. It was a fantasy domain of geometric shapes, self-defined practicality, studio space, incredible rooftop vistas and modern convenience. Bless Stephen’s Francophonic fetish and endless pursuit of the brilliantly bizarre.

After two days in Paris and a rekindled fiery desire to resettle in France, it was off to England to launch the tour in London. In light of last summer’s overweight baggage fiasco, I was determined to only fly major carriers or take the train. So I boarded the hyperspeed Eurostar, and two and half hours later, arrived at King’s Crossing in London. I relied on sensory memory to guide my bus travels to Hackney and Appl Juic’s pad, where I was set to rendez-vous with Farbeon. I managed to roll up on the “Rapping Supply Teacher’s” home right around midnight, drenched and spent and thrilled. The three of us, along with Juic’s lady Sarah, stayed up till the wee hours writing a track called “The Nothing,” trading teacher tales and laughs.

The next day, Zajazza arrived from France to join us for the jumpoff at Pangea Project. Pangea is a grassroots live music/poetry venue is East London, very reminiscent of the Bowery Poetry Club in layout, vibe and staffing. The bill was Appl Juic, 3P with Zajazza, local Grime cats Conrad Scoundrel and Spitfire, and an 8-bit Atari producer. Appl ripped a set with songs from his solo record and gems from “Revision Raps,” a state exam test prep album he’s written, amazingly enough at the same time I’ve been scribing and recording the “Fresh Prep” project for the Global 10 regents. He’s got jams like “Electricity” that break down circuitry, wattage, voltage… wow. Conrad Scoundrel and his crew ripped it as well, bringing the raw energy and tongue-twisting skills that come with Grime to the intimate venue. Serious skills.

Despite the light-ish crowd, we put down the perfect set to get things rolling. Far and I rocked for a cool hour, finding our stage legs and working out the set we’d been envisioning for the last month. It was totally bananas, and felt great to go in deep with a very engaged crowd. Personal highlight included getting to see Deenal and Yitzak, who I met last year when I rocked Pangea. They came back in full force to represent, along with Liam, whom I met on the Eurostar and built with. “As likely to meet your fam as we are to make a fan…”

The next morning was a blur of Iphone alarms and quick hop rides to the train station. We cabbed it to Euston station and jumped the train to Manchester. Baba and Core Rhythm met us at the other end and we walked the few blocks back to Baba & Dawn’s new crib.

Baba recently accepted the position of Executive Director/Creative Director of the Contact Theater, a progressive youth-oriented experimental theater group/venue in Manchester. And let me tell you, the man is living a well-deserved hard-earned dream. Before he took the job, Contact already had a decade-old tradition of youth-centered programming based on workshops and rising possibility (youth move from attendees to junior trainers to workshop mentors). Contact is also a pioneering venue in the world of Hip Hop Theater, both in the UK and internationally. To hear Baba’s story of his interview is one of pure inspiration and straight balls, but that is his story to recount…

Baba and Dawn have an amazing pad on Canal St, kind of the West Village of Manchester. We settled in there, relaxed for a minute and all headed to Contact for soundcheck. The building itself is incredible: a 300 person capacity main space, a black box theater, a rehearsal space, a cafĂ©/bar and youth-friendly nooks and crannies at every turn. In the time it took us to get the sound right, it was clear that Baba has found a new home. The most inspiring moment of this young trip was when this cat Fabian was chatting Baba up about his desire to “become an arts educator and run workshops, cause , you know, I might not make it in the music biz but want to represent Hip Hop culture and pass it on.” He’s 17 years old.

We caught a quick bite on Curry Row and got back to Contact to get the night rolling. In Manchester they have been rocking a “Freestyle Mondays” event (directly based on Sin Sin Mondays) for 3 years. On this night, we were going to debut “The Freestyle Pyramid” in the UK. The show was hosted by Baba, held down by Zajazza, featured an Open Mic, Appl Juic, Core Rhythm, and Farbeon and myself. The Pyramid broke up the sets and went over extremely well. 8 competitors, 3 rounds, the final between Chronicle and Visceral. Chronicle took it in splendid form.

Everyone killed their sets. Core tore it down, Appl Juic slayed a poem and the “Chewing Gum” joint, and Far, Zajazza and I brought a polished, crisp, concise version of the previous nights show to the stage. The night ended with an outdoor cypher that was all peace and love, highlighted by a teacher/student chide between us and a 14 year old Mancunian, a Hip Hop trivia freestyle and a Q&A freestyle that was siiiiiiick!

We spent yesterday recovering and chillaxing, and went to a magnificent backyard BBQ at the cottage home of the President of the British Black Arts Coalition, a tremendous woman named Sue. It was a bittersweet affair for her, as the Coalition’s state funding was just terminated after 19 years of consistent production, prudent and profitable financial management and groundbreaking race relations work. I mean, this woman founded Black History Month in Northern England. It was quite humbling, educational and inspiring to be in her presence and converse, as well as to peep her BBQing/hostessing skills. As a backyard party afficianado, I was incredibly impressed and left very full.

Today was just gearing up to leave. It was the third continent (or, island off-coast of a continent) that Zajazza and I have blessed, and a great start to the second European tour for 3rd Party. Going global with the NYC family never ceases to amaze me. This was literally the dream incarnate: NYC MCs with a British MC held down by a French DJ in England. All represented on the “Get Up Stand Up” Compilation, all acquainted through positive Hip Hop culture and heavy cultural digging.

So I’m lamping in first class on the Eurostar, buzzing back to Paris for a few hours before boarding a plane to Bulgaria tomorrow to dive into Percy and Masha’s wedding festivities, the other primary reason for this trip. It’s going to be an adventure of it’s own, uniting my best friends from high school as far east as I’ve ever been. There is a potential DJ gig or two lined up, but I am looking very forward to some genuine vacation time, which I haven’t had in many moons. Then it’ll be off to Berlin to reconnet with 3P and hit the heavy stretch of this tour alongside J-Live and DJ Truemaster. In the meantime, Farbeon will be setting it off with two shows in Germany with J, in Cologne and Berlin.

It’s a verbose recap of 7 days, but I’ll be dammed if it wasn’t as loaded as it sounds. I am simply looking forward to being static for a few days and not lugging around 40 kilos of luggage (getting lighter with every gig). Anybody know a good Bulgarian chiropractor?

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