DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist have been household names in the hip hop scene since the early 90s but they’ve been at it since the 80s, learning and making since the Golden Age of hip hop music. Afrika Bambaata is legend. Between founding Zulu Nation and originating breakbeat DJing, he’s the definition of a pioneer. You can feel the power of these three men in the same room the second you walk in the door. From the moment they stepped on the stage, history came to life and you were transported to the Bronx, 1970-something. All this funk and soul was grooving through the crowd, getting inside of people, making them move.
Photo on exhibition at Irving Plaza, The Black Spades, 1974
Shadow and Cut Chemist were first and foremost, up there to pay respect to Afrika Bambaata, “The Godfather.” To educate the crowd on his influence, to establish his significance in the founding of hip hop culture, of hip hop music, of the entire mentality of hip hop. Their backdrop consisted of projected images of Bambataa’s records and original members of the Universal Zulu Nation… the Zulu Kings and Zulu Queens, the graff guys, the b-boys, the MCs that pioneered the movement. Images of subway trains and graffiti zooming past, images of what hip hop is all about.
DJ Shadow at Irving Plaza 9/5/14
The boys have everyone dancing for the solid two hour set, with break circles forming all over the crowd. It’s just a big party and it’s all for Bambaata. Every once in a while, they look toward the big man standing on the balcony and every time, Bambaata’s smile grows even bigger. The man’s a hero to them. He didn’t just change the game… he made the game and they did a beautiful job of showing him how crucial his role has been. No better way to pay homage than playing a killer set inspired by Bambaata’s own career and influences.
Cut Chemist at Irving Plaza 9/5/14
Shadow and Chemist have collaborated on multiple occasions and play off each other with extraordinary ease. Their dynamic works impressively well. Shadow points at Chemist and he drops the next track, they’re scratching in perfect synchronization, they’re up on that stage daring you to have a better time than they are. Hard not to have a good time when they’re mixing dubbed down James Brown with beats straight out of the sweaty jungles of Africa.
DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist at Irving Plaza 9/5/14
The energy of this show was so lifted that there was an immediate sense of community from just being present. This feeling that your story doesn’t matter here. This oneness, this sameness. The crowd became one moving body with the same purpose and the same light. This feeling that it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been around or how far you’ve come or where you’re headed or what you know or who you know, all that matters is that you get up and move. Get up and shake it. Get up and scream. Get up and give thanks. Give thanks to music and the humans that make it.
The Renegades of Rhythm tour continues through November so get your tickets to a show near you here:
9/18 - Austin, TX - ACL Live [tickets HERE]
Story and photos by Bad Liz Hayes