Tuesday, September 1, 2009

GUSU #3: Hip Hop Kemp

(Notes: check out the video highlight reel I cut in the previous entry for the A/V experience. And also check out the amazing Kemp pics by Farbeon (http://www.myspace.com/farbeon) and Lokey Photography (http://www.myspace.com/lokeyphotography) They are simply bananas.)

The key prefix here is “RE-:” REmembering, REcapping, REflecting, REvisiting, REliving, REconnecting, REcollecting, REviewing and REfreshing. It’s REally wild to REcall how much has happened in the span of 2 weeks, let alone an entire month, and hard to separate days from nights and shows from shows, but that’s why I take life notes and blog chronologically. So take it back to the Czech REpublic for Hip Hop Kemp…

Hip Hop Kemp is the second largest Hip Hop festival on continental Europe (and vying to be the first). A 3-day all-element extravaganza on an old air force base in the Czech, outside of a lovely town called Hradec Kralove. Last year, Farbeon and I painted the festival Brooklyn with Baba Israel, Yako 400 and the Beatburger Band. We vowed to come back large in 2009 and rock it super official (check the “Summer Breaks Hip Hop Kemp” video on youtube for last year’s take). So this year we came back wth J-Live and Truemaster, a hotel room, transportation and momentum.

We arrived in Hradec Kralove after 3 hours sleep and a 6-hour train from Leipzig. We were greeted at the rail station by a driver with a sign for all of us, and were quickly buzzed to the luxurious Hotel Podvice. Leather couches, flat screen TV, a bed for everyone… this was living! I had an extreme super-rap-fan moment within 15 minutes of checking in: out in the hallway, I bumped into our nextdoor neighbor and introduced myself. He was like, “Peace, my name is Chee,” and I was like, “cool.” And his voice echoed in my head for a moment and I was like, “oh, as in SONNY CHEEBA from CAMP LO” and my college freshman self had a mild heart attack. This was obviously going to be a fantastic experience.

J-Live was rocking the mainstage at 7pm on Friday night, and 3rd Party was rocking the Music City hangar at 12:30am, so we headed out to the festival for soundcheck. Lamping backstage we bumped into Blu & Exile, B.O.B., Reef the Lost Cause, Torae, German DJ Marc Hype, Maria Kapix, Le Bob, John Robinson, DJ That Fucking Sara, Qwazzar from Typical Cats, Alesh One, Lokey Photography, Ghonzales, The Berlinutz… a nice mix of Hip Hop luminaries and our European extended family. It was pretty humbling and amazing to see J-Live reconnect with the circuit of underground heroes, here in the middle of Central Europe. Wild to think that you’ve got to some halfway around the world to catch up with peoples from back in the day.

By 5pm, the mainstage crowd was about 1,000 deep. Blu & Exile rocked a butter set. “Below the Heavens” has obviously made tracks around the globe. We got to catch up with Exile and reminisce over rocking The Pussycat Lounge in NYC with Aloe Blacc back in 2005 (hard to forget playing a strip club/music venue to a crowd of 10 people). On stage, this guy freaks the MPC like very few. He plays the pads with one hand and it sounds like a DJ rocking doubles, cutting and scratching while being backed by a band. Unbelievable skills flex. Blu has a real easy vibe on stage and works the mellow jams to perfection. Great performance, up and down.

J-Live was rocking after Blu & Exile. By the time Justice hit the stage the crowd was 1,500 deep. J had Truemaster on the wheels and Hired Gun to help hype. He was going to rock a self-proclaimed“competition set” (raising the bar and making it hard for the next acts to follow). The man has endless classic records, which makes it easy to pack them a 40-minute set with sing-a-long gems. Words can’t really capture the frenzy he had the crowd in, but fortunately I’ve got it on video. It was really heart-warming to see HG rock the hype-man role (perfectly suited for his raucous stage style) and to have J & True drop “Get Up Stand Up” and give 3rd Party a shout.

We had a few hours to kill before our set time. As big and dope as this festival is, it is quite a logistical spiderweb. We had a hell of a time getting fed, getting our meal stipend, really getting any kind of info… note to artists: make sure you advocate for your damn selves! Farbeon is the man when it comes to looking out for us, and delivering straight-talk in a most admirable way.

Now, the hitch in all of this was that we were scheduled to play directly after Method Man finished headlining the mainstage. In a perfect world, he would wrap up, the crowd would roll to the Hangar and we’d rock a packed house. In the Hip Hop world, we knew Meth would start late, finish late, and we’d be left rocking to a smaller crowd. It’s a Hip Hop world baby. So, we delayed for a bit and started to rock to a thin crowd, but with all of our dear friends in attendance. Method Man hadn’t even started on the mainstage yet, meaning folks waiting to see him could have caught us, but hey, it is what it is. We rocked a super-tight 30 minute set with J-Live in the front row holding down the crowd, along with Maria Kapix, Maria from Dresden, Le Bob, Ghonza, Marc Hype, K984, Alesh Uno, John Robinson and a bunch of heads we’d get to meet later. Truemaster held us down airtight on the decks, and as we blazed through the set, the crowd doubled, tripled, quadrupled in size. By the end, we had built a very nice sized audience, which unfortunately was catching the last 10 minutes of our show. As we closed with a freestyle, the “More! More! More!” chants came out of the crowd, now really filling in. The stage manager gave us the emphatic thumbs up to rock for another 15 minutes. Having only planned a 30-minute set, we had Truemaster drop instrumentals and we freestyled/jammed for 15 more minutes, working the crowd and still leaving them wanting more. Every show we’ve done on this tour has finished with a bigger crowd than it started with; I can’t be mad at that.

(Unfortunately, Truemaster's camera had all the photos of this set and the flash memory card died. Lost to the rap g-ds...)

We stuck around for a bit Friday night and caught a late-night set from Berlin super-emcee Amewu with DJ Werd. I was totally entranced by this cat’s flow and breath control. Simply astonishing (more on the Berlin EOW fam later). We called it a night after an epic Friday and headed back to the hotel. We all slept until after 2pm on Saturday, caught a late lunch courtesy of J, and got geared up to head back to Kemp for the closing night. We kicked it at a restaurant in the Centrum, getting busy on Pilsner and Becherovka before finally heading back to the Festival at 6pm or so.

While we were gone, our main homegirl Maria Kapix had worked some magic. Peoples were really feeling our set from the previous night, and feeling bad that we didn’t get to rock the whole set for a bigger crowd, so Maria worked it out for us to do a special guest set with Marc Hype and Jim Dunloop at the closing party for Kemp, also their record release party (this woman is unrivaled in generosity, warmth, and hospitialty). So after all of it, we were going to be doing another full set at 4am to wrap up the whole jam. We spent the evening checking out Devin the Dude, Killa Kella, wildin’ out to Camp Lo, and trying to maintain till 4am. We ended up going back to the hotel for a couple of hours to chill before coming back to rock. Yes, we passed up seeing La Coka Nostra to kick it in the hotel room freestyling with J-Live and catch laughing fits. Good trade☺

We got back as the mainstage was shutting down and the closing party with Marc Hype, Jim Dunloop and Lady Daisy was jumping off. Marc is a siiiiiick DJ (former German DMC & ITF champ, ITF World Finalist), and Jim crushes the keys. They put on a tremendous dance party, lacing irresistible uptempo funk/breakbeat joints. Lady Daisy guested on the vocals to take it to a next level. The dance floor was jamming, the vibe was amazing and I danced my ass off. The break circle was in effect and everyone got busy in the middle (even Far and J). We were invited to the stage to follow all this, and rocked a balls-out set till 5am. At the end of our set, 3rd Party invited J-Live to the stage, and the late-revelers got a special treat as J did “Them That’s Not” for about 65 people at 5am. Out of this world.

So, we got back to the hotel at 5:30am, packed, slept till 8am and jumped in the van to Prague. We dropped off J, True and Torae at the airport, said peace, took the group photo and headed to DaSka headquarters to begin the Praha stretch of the tour. J and True were off to London to rock one last show that night. Superheroes in the most genuine sense. A week for the record books and the personal Hip Hop annals. My 19 year-old self is freaking out somewhere in 1998, beaming with pride, staring in amazement and loving every minute of it.

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