Sunday, October 22, 2006

Video Dance Party: Stones Throw's 10th Anniversary Tour

Hate to say it, but hip hop shows are boring. With all the various shout-outs, braggadoccio and general hyping taking up five to ten minute between songs, your general hip hop show is a very stop-go-stop affair, negating any sense of flow (this, of course, is with exceptions).

It's a rare to have an MC be capitivating or entertaining enough to keep the crowd going, but Percee P managed to do so. Now, I can't pretend to know much about P's history, but no matter: P spent most of his set convincing us of the illustriousness of it. P reminded us of all the various guest-rhymes he's had since the early 90s, sprinkled songs from his upcoming albums when he felt it necessary to do so (in front of a very nonchalent J Rocc, who could barely must up enough energy to press play on his Macbook. Though his set ended up being more like an extended soliloquy than an actual set, P's earnestness to have us burn his name in the annals of hip hop history ultimately proved charming.

I suppose this sums up my general thoughts of Madlib, who I generally associate with Stones Throw. I tend to think of Madlib as the Lou Barlow or Robert Pollard of hip hop, with a knack to package 1-2 minute gems amongst many more minutes of filler, as though Madlib had too short of an attention span to see an idea through and needed to document all other ideas before they vanished (this is largely why I prefer J Dilla, who was more gifted in the execution). Listening to Madlib is generally chaotic, tracks ending just as the groove is starting to settle, but with a determination and earnestness that charms us throughout the scattershot. (The Madlib comp Mind Fusion vol.4 sold on the tour serves as an example.)

Madlib, of course, didn't attend (his grandmother passed away shortly before); Peanut Butter Wolf became the de facto headliner. I've appreciated PBW's funk mix, 16 Corners, but his hip hop set blew me away. The selection, largely early to mid 90s hip hop from the so-called "Golden Age," was one thing, but the actual format was the spectacle: PBW was mixing video! Each track's video was projected onto a screen above, with each scratch in the set corresponding to a 'scratch' in the video. I thought it was via Serato but there wasn't a laptop on-stage; I'm completely uncertain as to how this was done. Watching the videos flow and hiccup into each other proved to be the most entertaining part of the night, though it became more like watching a fucked up MuchMusic than a live show (as a side note, I had completely forgotten how corny hip hop videos were at the time, and was completely astounded as to how well the Skinny Boys still stands up.)

It should come as no surprise that, despite PBW's video being entertaining, J Rocc proved to be a much better mixer. J Rocc followed the same preferred DJ format that most crate-diggers prefer: play the track, play the underlying sample, mix out. It was just more of the same, however, with little to set it apart from other sets and other DJs. Though J Rocc had the flow more constant and rocking than any one else that evening, it was the inconsistencies of the night that ultimately proved more captivating, and although hip hop shows generally fail because of inconsistency, the Stones Throw 10th Anniversary show succeeded because of it.

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