|DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist at Mr. Smalls 11/14/14. All photos (C) PMR.|
A sold out crowd got schooled to the old school by DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist at Mr. Smalls Friday night.
The two took the stage a little past 10pm, and Shadow took the mic to explain that this wasn't a normal tour, that they would spinning nothing but Afrika Bambaataa's records, that this was a tremendous privilege...
“No one fucking cares!” yelled out some drunk dude near the front.
Shadow called the guy out on it, and boos rained down on the dude from the rest of the crowd. This was easily the drunkest crowd I saw all year – maybe the late start had something to do with it – and within two minutes of the set start I saw a woman slap a guy right across his face.
Drunk people aside, Cut and Shadow each had three decks and a box full of wax apiece. A projector behind the duo set the mood with cel-shaded animation of 1970s Manhattan at dusk. The background changed as the evening and music progressed, ranging from subway cars bombed-out with graffiti to the actual album covers themselves, with “Property of Afrika Bambaataa” written in indelible marker on the front.
The entire set, which was broken up into two fifty-minute halves, was heavy on the deep cuts but not to the point of obscurity. There were plenty of moments when a certain breakbeat or lyrical refrain would come in, and knowing glances and nudges would spread through the crowd. A couple times the two DJs would show off their skills by scratching together, but mostly they let the music take the lead.
Shadow and Cut each took turns schooling the crowd on the origins of hip-hop as the set progressed, the music being played in chronological order. At one point Shadow praised Bambaataa for never swinging toward the mainstream as his popularity expanded. This, he said, is the biggest reason he admires Bambaataa.
With about thirty minutes to go in the set, after Cut Chemist encouraged the b-boys and b-girls to form a circle in the crowd, a drunk woman squeezed next to me near the stage and immediately took 3 or 4 snapchat videos in a row. “Were you here the last time [DJ Shadow] was here?” she asked me. “He played nothing but trap beats the whoooooole time. This is different.”
It was around this time that the original drunk guy made friends with another drunk guy, and they both started to chant “Entroducing” during the quiet moments. Cut turned to Shadow around that point and said something like “this guy's going to see you on tour in two years and start chanting for Renegades of Rhythm."
“This is something you'll tell your grandkids about,” said Shadow, toward the end of the nearly two hour set. A few came out to hear J5 and "The Number Song," but they ended up missing out on a master class given by two of the best to do have ever done it
Here are some photos from the evening:
-- B. Conway