Words by Mass Dosage
Hip-Hop melts the Ice
Last night Hip-Hop manifested itself in a powerful form in downtown Johannesburg. The Electric Workshop was the venue for a musical happening put together by ICE productions - a group better known for holding huge mainstream raves than underground Hip-Hop events. For a change of pace, 206 Live was involved in the organisation of the event and a Hip-Hop/Drum and Bass tent was erected amongst all the commercial and tranced-out mayhem. Hip-Hop was in effect from the beginning, although you had to look around a bit to find it.Graffiti was represented during the early part of the evening with Johannesburg's Gogga doing a piece designed to "trip out the minds of all the ravers". His undefinable style was in full effect as he put together a suitably tripped-out piece that garnered much interest and appreciation from the crowds of people moving around the massive venue. Hip-Hop heads in cammo, beanies, hoodies and baggy clothing lurked around - in sharp contrast to the glamour and glitz of the scantily-clad ravers wearing tight, brightly-coloured outfits, designed more for show than anything resembling comfort or peace of mind.
1:30am - the much-anticipated Ready D from Cape Town took to the decks... and Hip-Hop took over. To get things started right, a display of breakdancing was put on by a posse of b-boys imported specially for the event from Cape Town. This is something that has been sorely missing from the Johannesburg Hip-Hop scene and hopefully this awesome display of energy channeled into high-powered dance moves will serve as inspiration for Joburg to get some breaking going on. The b-boy session was followed by a twenty minute scratching set as Ready D firmly cemented himself as South Africa's most skilled DJ on two turntables. No doubt.Hip-Hop break beats were overlaid with frenetic scratching as Ready D showed the headphones to the crowd and then proceeded to unplug them, bringing more meaning to the words "live and unplugged". He then went on to put the crossfaders and kill switches on the mixer through their paces - eradicating them of any thoughts of having a calm night. This was followed by him scratching the thin slabs of black vinyl with every part of his body that he was legally allowed to display in public. In doing this he demonstrated something that too many DJ's forget to incorporate into their sets - showmanship. It's not only his superior skillz and choice of phat beats that put him on another level, but the fact that he visibly shows that he is loving what he is doing by encouraging the crowd to watch and appreciate what is going on before their eyes. After all, DJ'ing in front of an audience is a live performance where the DJ should do more than just deliver a personal performance of a mix tape.
As the night progressed Ready D played some of the most banging Hip-Hop tunes you'll hear anywhere, from KRS-One to Camp Lo to the Def Squad and back again. The audience loved it, and one could see the seeds of an appreciation for real Hip-Hop music being sown amongst the assembled partygoers. The 2 hour set was ended with a personal favourite - Black Star's Redefinition - summing up how Hip-Hop culture is being redefined and rising up to heights that it has never previously reached in South Africa.One dark thought flitted amongst the sweat-stained bodies as one observed the racial breakup of the crowd submerged in a newly-discovered (or reaffirmed) respect for Hip-Hop culture. Due to the high cost of the event's tickets, a large number of people who should have been there were prevented from attending and witnessing this raw display of Hip-Hop power. The sad thing is that these underprivileged people would have had the most to benefit from the event as it would have showed them that the possibility does exist for them to make their Hip-Hop dreams come true through innovation and perseverance, no matter what their background.
The power of the conglomeration of graffiti, b-boying, mc'ing and dj'ing was undeniable. All four chambers of Hip-Hop culture were in effect mode and together they proved that Hip-Hop in its purest form is still alive, well and growing in South Africa. The fact that it turned out to be one of the most happening parties in a while was a mere bonus!