It was a night of contradictions for me. It was the beginning of April, yet it was snowing. I was at Ben's Chili Bowl at 4am, yet I wasn't eating anything.
Grandmaster Flash was spinning a Lil Jon track.
An 11-year old white kid was the best B-boy in the house.
I went to see Grandmaster Flash spin at the 930 club last weekend. As you know, Grandmaster Flash is a hip-hop legend. He was recently inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame along with the Furious Five, making them the first hip hop group to receive that honor. He was also the first DJ to use a turntable as an instrument, which I was perpetually reminded of throughout the night by a large sign on stage that said "Grandmaster Flash: The First DJ to Use a Turntable as an Instrument."
And for the first hour or so, he lived up to his legend. Despite coming on (much) later than expected, he wasted no time, masterfully scratching over tracks varying from Afrika Bambaataa to Nirvana. I was right up front, so close that I could make out the gender of the kangaroo on his beret. (It was female.)
To say that I was elated would be an understatement.
Then, he cleared a circle in the middle of the club to let the B-boys do their thing. That's when I first realized that something was awry. All the B-boys were skinny white teenagers, presumably from suburban Maryland. Well, all except for this kid, who won't be a teenager for a few more years...
He went by the name of "Shamrock," and he was actually pretty good. Nonetheless, his presence didn't exactly replicate the ambiance of the Bronx in the early '80s when Grandmaster Flash would lay beats down for Kurtis Blow, Melle Mel, etc.
After the Bethesda Breakers were done doing their thing, Grandmaster Flash apparently decided to mail it in. He set up his MacBook Pro on stage, put on an extended playlist that was heavy on contemporary southern hip-hop (which I'm absolutely convinced is destroying the genre
), and occasionally shouted something incomprehensible over the mic.
No more scratching, no more using the "turntable as an instrument" - just intermittent barking as Lil Jon implored us to snap our fingers. It was like going to El Bulli
and having Ferran Adria
serve you a Whopper.
Of course, the crowd loved it.
I can't explain it. Maybe Grandmaster Flash is just too old these days. Or maybe I am...