Thursday, September 3, 2009

GUSU #4: Praha-ha-ha: the Whole Soundset's 3P

I was looking very forward to getting back to my European homebase in Prague. This was going to be my 5th time in Prague in less than 2 years, and the 3rd Say Word tour visit in 12 months (Far and Core Rhythm’s “Winter Soulstice” tour passed through back in February). Individually and collectively, we’ve put a ton of work into building a rep there. We work with DaSka Records out of Prague, who organized the European release of “Building the Better Bomb,” and has produced and promoted both Jaro Cossiga releases that feature myself and 3rd Party, “Beat Apetit” and “Hob-n-Nob.” Everytime in Prague it’s a non-stop hustle of radio promo appearances, street teaming, freestyling, interviews… This time around we were scheduled to rock 2 shows in 4 days: “Freestyle Nandej” at Pantheon (the Prague version of Freestyle Mondays), and Chapeau Rouge on Thursday with Beatburger Band, Philip TBC and Alesh One. After an ultra-tranquil Sunday of recoup, we hit it hard on Monday for the Prague leg of “Get Up Stand Up.”

Monday started with an appearance on Radio DJ. We promoted both shows and had a great interview with host Mary. We met up with Philip TBC for the interview and discussed the history of our NYC/Prague collaboration, and the new single from his album, “Czech Yourself.” It was also the first time a radio DJ asked us about the education work we do in NYC and globally; very refreshing and invigorating. It was a wonderful conversation that we capped off with a dope on-air freestyle. What’s really hilarious is that she was playing a beat, but we couldn’t hear it on our headphones, so I started beatboxing. The beatbox was coincidentally nearly layered on top of the beat, so she thought it was supposed to be an added rhythm. Makes for a great in-studio video, but must’ve been a funny listen for the folks at home. (Sidenote: Mary is a badass electric violin player, and on Monday we planted the seed to have her roll thru Thursday’s show for a jam session…)

Monday night, Far and I caught some vegetarian Indian food with TBC (vegetarian eats in Prague? What? Spare the dumplings and goulash, at last!) before rolling over to Pantheon. The big homey Dowis started an event modeled after Ill Spokinn & Mariella’s “Freestyle Mondays” at Sin Sin in NYC, the 7-year running Lower East Side staple that has been the breeding ground for some of the illest cats I know, and the hub of my Hip Hop family. The Prague event goes down at Dowis’ club, Pantheon, which is a 24/7 Hip Hop venue. Sketch battles, open mics, DJs every night, a white gallery; it has evolved into THE place in Prague for the underground Hip Hop community to build. Freestyle Nandej differs from Sin Sin in that it is a sign-up open mic, rather than a cypher. Each MC gets 2 minutes to rock, and the host, Constantin, holds up a “Stop” sign, with “Keep Going” on the flipside. So, if you’re ripping it, you get to continue rhyming longer.

The house was packed. The main homey Jaro Cossiga was in the building. The roster of MCs that rocked the mic really put it down, especially young cats like Jimi, Shark Ass (the 16 year-old female phenom!) and Lucie (promoter/manager and MC?!?). The room was jumping by the time we hit the stage. I pulled double-duty for the first and only time this tour as MC/DJ, but the Pantheon stage is so small, it was a breeze. We really had our rhythm and instincts aligned after 3 shows in 3 days. The set at Pantheon was extremely tight and extremely well-received. It was a shorter music set, serving as promo for Thursday, and was capped off with a long freestyle. I then spun instrumentals for the rest of the open mic session, bringing some BK underground flavor to the cypher. After the freestyle session, some incredible B-Boys hit the floor and ripped it until after 3:00am. The novelty of seeing top-notch breakers up close never wears off for me. Helicopters, headspings, the whole nine… We were primed for the big show on Thursday at Chapeau Rouge, and looking forward to a couple of mellow days before to re-energize.

Tuesday began with a lunch rehearsal with Philip TBC. He’d be holding us down on the decks and rocking a showcase, as Thursday’s party would also serve as the release party for the first single from his upcoming album, “Audible Thoughts.” TBC is a legendary Drum-n-Bass producer/DJ in the Czech. We got to build last summer during Hip Hop Kemp and later in Prague. I went to Budjeovice to rock a D-n-B party with him last September; we really hit it off on the MC/DJ tip as well as the interpersonal. He is fascinating dude and has spent extensive time traveling India, Tibet and the Himalayas. A spiritual man with a knack for the uptempo banger. Kuzhell had facilitated the collab between us (as DaSka artists), and I’d written and recorded “Czech Yourself” in Brooklyn during summer 2008. It was now mixed, remixed and ready to hit the airwaves.

We had a relaxed rehearsal, an excellent home-cooked lunch and good build session. Afterwards, we met up with Nasty from the Beatburger Band to catch up. He took us to the Prague “Beach Bar,” which is a summer hotspot for the young and nouveau riche. There was some pretty hilarious Czech Dirty Dancing going down to keep up entertained, but we were all spent. Farbeon had about 60% of his voice, I had about 75% of mine, and Hired Gun was sick as a dog, literally falling asleep at the bar table. I kicked it with Nasty back to his place, where I got to sleep on a real-live mattress, which was an extreme upgrade from the doghair-covered studio floor I’d been sleeping on for the previous 2 nights.

Wednesday was a heavy promo day: we hit Radio Spin with Poeta in the afternoon, then rolled back to Radio Spin in the night to guest on DJ Trusty and DJ Negativ’s show with Alesh One. We dropped a dope freestyle and Alesh did a hot 30 minute funk guest set. Gotta love the DJ who shows up with 20 records in a grocery bag to rock the spot. We stopped by Chapeau Rouge to check out the performance space before calling it an early night. We were looking at the beginning of a 3-shows-in-3-days slalom from the chute and wanted to be on point for all of it. Other than Kuzhell’s car catching a flat (donut changed and ratcheted on in 6 minutes!), it was smooth day.

Thursday was all about tempered preparation. Kuzhell and I finished mixing and mastering the single, and did some CD duplicating. I took a nice long run through Zizkov park, overlooking central Prague on cloudless 85 degree summer day. We loaded in for soundcheck at 8:00pm and had a couple hours to catch up with the Beatburger Fam. Chapeau Rouge is one of those prototypical European venues: very old space with 3 levels, the lowest being a cave-like stage space. That’s where we’d be rocking. It’s also a heavy tourist watering hole, with a bunch of pub crawls stopping by each night.

The stage room itself is capacity 100, and by the time the Beatburger Band hit the stage, it was 60 deep. Beatburger Band is the Vice-World Champion beatboxing team, having placed 2nd at the 2009 World Championships. Everytime I see them rock, they are growing and improving. Jaro, Nasty, Ivanhoe and En.Dru were representing (minus young buck Johnny Typek). Their stage show is a brilliant mix of team and individual showcases, and their cover song selection is a hilarious trip through the “Jock Jams” catalog. “Pump Up the Jam,” “Whoomp There it Is,” “I Like to Move It;” and then they hit you with “In the Air of Night.” You haven’t lived till you’ve seen Ivanhoe crush the Phil Collins’ vocals. By the time they finished, the room was packed and a number of tourists from upstairs had paid entry to the show and were wildin’ out in the front row. Fantastic warm-up.

This was going to be our most extensive set of the tour. We had a full hour planned, and knew we’d rock longer. The crowd needed a breather from the steamy hot room after Beatburger, and after a 15-minute intermission, we took the stage. After 10 minutes, the crowd that was there had returned and grown. The room was packed out, and the front rows were simply going crazy. It was so hot and humid that shirts were coming off all over the place. We were feeding off the crowd and they were eating up the energy and giving it back tenfold. It was great to see some kids that knew “Building the Better Bomb” get crazy to “People of My Nature” and “The Better Bomb,” not to mention the fantastic reactions to doing “Time Travelin’” and “Justwhatodo” from Jaro’s projects. This was one of those shows that you dream about, where you can’t give the crowd enough. We had a ridiculous guest appearance from Mary (from Radio DJ) on the ELECTRIC VIOLIN, which evolved into a beatobx D-n-B jam with Jaro and TBC. After our set, we freestyled for a bit, then announced the premiere of “Czech Yourself.” When TBC dropped the beat, the bounce was in the air. I ended up rapping the second verse from the floor, jumping around with the sweat-mob of Prague teenagers. It was a tremendous debut for the song. After that, HG and I freestyled over TBC’s original D-n-B beats, then I finally took over the turntables and rocked the dance party for another hour. The breakers were back, and the bulk of dancers from upstairs at Chapeau had slid downstairs. By the time all was said and done, it was 4:00am. I was drenched, spent, psyched and totally fulfilled. Farbeon said it best: “It’s crazy when you do all this promotion, have a team of peeps posting and re-posting on Facebook, flyers, posters, hype… and then the people actually show up!”

We had the intent of making this a quicker, more efficient hit of Prague. 2 insane shows, a bunch of new Say Word family members, new music dispersed to the media… and travel back to Berlin bought for us? Sure made getting on the train on zero hours of sleep a lot easier. Till the next time Praguers: “DaSka Records DaSka Records DaSka Records DaSka Records DaSka Records DaSka Records…” ☺

1 comment:

menno said...

I did not suspect that there was a hiphop preformens at all. first we had a sneak preview and we saw the warm up. so we went back upstairs to pay. then the show started end it was great. my friends went crazy and they where the ones at the front that took there shirt off. I just stood in the back enjoying it all from a distance. I was suprised and really happy to experience this all. I bought the cd building the better bomb and i got the get up stand up cd for free because one off you guys said it was better to give it away to get known. then he said that you are going to do another european tour soon. so i said to him to come to our town to. I come from the netherlands. from the city eindhoven. so i gave him information about dynamo, a place for youth activities. I really hope you wil going to preform there to. I am going to bring as much people as i can because you guys rock. thank you for this wonderfull show. see you soon. peace menno lokhoff