Naturally, I wouldn’t claim to be a b-boy (or b-girl for that matter) unless the b stood for blackened death thrash but a few folks had the balls (and not just tennis ones…) to come to stage left when invited by the legendary and seminal MC KRS for some impromptu dance off on stage. Only for the majority to be quite harshly dismissed once they’d got there for not meeting his dress requirements etc. Still, I ‘m not a wigger either, and would go to some lengths to defend my long term fan-dom of the scene from the days when John Peel would be playing Public Enemy and Napalm Death back to back. Occasionally I do feel I am deficient in my vitamin-b though so when I saw this double header on the listings celebrating “40 years of hip-hop” it seemed an excellent opportunity to get a dose of bass, beats and verbals, so a car load of us headed up from the sunshine coast.
There was quite a queue outside the venue so we had a refreshing breather in Grand Central before heading back in. was trying to remember if I’d been to The Ritz before but had no flashbacks, a decent enough large open theatre venue, seems to be on the tour itineraries a bit more recently, perhaps taking over from the Apollo a bit. Nicely packed, things are underway already and one of the MC’s introduces another, Akir. A labelmate on Immortal’s own Viper Records. Starts steady but swiftly shifts up a gear into some excellent biting hardcore flow, a real laid back DJ to one side dropping the beats that hit the spot through the full on PA. Plays quite a decent length set before they seamlessly hype up the arrival of “Tech-nique..Tech-nique…”. The man himself takes centre stage and soon gets down to business. His overtly socio-political material can put as many people off as it pleases, I am in the latter. That said, initially he’s not as hard hitting as I expected but the strong stuff comes soon enough, ably backed up by his wingmen too. Makes us all appreciate the Peruvian style. There’s a crossover (or should that be crossfade?) of DJ’s next as KRS’s son takes over the decks to herald his dad’s arrival. How he can bounce onto the stage wrapped in Jamaican scarf and bobble hat when the rest of us are sweating cobs in the throng I don’t know, but gradually the layers come off as he rolls out his rhymes. The disconcerting bouncy floor of the Ritz is certainly being put through its paces, some of the reverberating basslines are so heavy my sinuses are vibrating. Early on he’s keen to emphasis he’s an Mc and not a rapper, and the amazing interplay between himself and the crowd knowing and loving his classic lines, machinegunned out in true blastmaster fashion, more than demonstrates this. As the founder of (UN recognised) The Temple of Hip Hop he takes the opportunity to preach forcefully to us, but not on a god tip but rather for more social and gender justice. Interesting that both he and Immortal really close their sets with hammering home the message of “no revolution until women are empowered”, sharp contrast to all the sexualised subservience of r’n’b bitches. Naturally, we get the stone cold old school classics of “9mm go bang” and “Sound of the police” but there’s also an excellent referencing to the anniversary occasion with a chronological run through of hiphop history from ’73 til 86 when “KRS walked through the door”. Added to by what I took to be an airing of his mad medley “Hiphop vs Rap” featuring a ton of classic lines from the genre. The whole thing is relentless, with the simple immediate change-overs between the acts and the whether the tracks or long or short there’s no let up in the bounce. A bit early for Wimbledon but there’s a barrage of signed tennis balls lobbed into nearly all corners of the crowd relentlessly, though I never get to see one, but still my souvenirs are memories of a classic night’s entertainment. Broad smiles all around after sum up a really great atmosphere to savour. The hip hop don’t stop! And that’s a good thing.