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Saturday
Apr022016

Charles Bradley Live at Rough Trade (29.03.2016)

My first introduction to Charles Bradley was when a housemate showed me a video of this incredible soul singer performing in a bicycle store as part of SXSW. 

Instantly the video made me a fan. That was near on 5 years ago and I have been lucky enough to see the man they call the Screaming Eagle live for myself three times since then! The most recent of which was an intimate gig at Rough Trade's East London store.

On a rainy Tuesday night we made our way to Brick Lane with a bottle of wine in tow - BYO being one of the benefits of an in-store gig at Rough Trade! Upon arrival, it was a little surprising that only around 20 others were there. But after browsing the vinyl offering for a few minutes the store began to fill up and a crowd of about 150 people gathered near the stage.  

We took up position front and center where we met a 63-year-old Jamaican woman who wanted to confirm that we would be dancing once the music started - of course we would be!

His band 'The Extraordinaires' warm up the room with some funky rolling soul beats before introducing Bradley to the stage to a roar of applause. Prior to being discovered and recording his own songs with Daptone records, Charles Bradley was a James Brown tribute act for several years, and you can't help feeling like he comes from another era. Sporting a black turtle neck sweater, flared pants and jacket it wasn't long before he unleashed the voice that rivals the greatest of all time! 

What followed was a mix of songs and emotions spanning all three albums, we were dancing, swaying and embracing. The title track from his new long player 'Changes' was a highlight - looking directly into the eyes of the crowd, including my own, Charles spoke of how hard this song was for him, but how he promised his mother before she passed away that he would always sing it and give his audiences 'his best'. Everyone in the room is holding back tears as he wails "I've lost the best friend I ever had".

Other highlights include the classic 'Loving you baby' and some news favourites from the latest album 'You think I don't Know (but I know) and the irresistibly funky 'Ain't It a Sin'. 

Extending the brief 30 minute set into 45 minutes, it is all over too soon. But Bradley truly bonds with each and every one of us ending his show by walking through the crowd hugging everyone.

Saturday
Oct172015

DMC WORLD DJ CHAMPIONSHIP LONDON 2015

Words by Harry Upton

I first heard about the DMC DJ Competition in the early 2000's, when The Beastie Boys were on high rotation in my multi-stacker CD player and the X-ecutioners were in the charts. Mixmaster Mike was a regular competitor in the early 90's and the event has hosted some of hip hop's best DJ's over it's 30 year history (Qbert, Apollo, Roc Raider and a 15 year old A-Trak!) My interest was heightened further after viewing online videos of DJ's scratching, cutting and beat juggling. This led to a brief obsession with scratching and the high school version of me spending all my pennies on turntables and vinyl. A hobby which was cut short far too early when my income had to be spent on real-world things like food and rent, rather than vinyl imports!

Fast forward 15 years and I find myself in London, home of the DMC World DJ Championship, the world's number 1 DJ competition. I've maintained an interest in the competition for several years now so could not pass up the opportunity to finally attend the event at The Forum in Kentish Town. 
After some pre-drinks in the sun at Camden's stable markets, we made our way over to Kentish Town in the early afternoon to make the most of the near-full day event. After getting patted down by the guards upon entry, we entered the massive theatre-style venue and watched the last of the DJ eliminations. Although winners from each country are flown over to London for the finals, only 9 DJ's made it through to the main event later this evening. Unfortunately Australia's DJ Broke didn't make the cut, so I jumped on the New Zealand bandwagon in support of DJ Spell.
This event, although there are no real rules, has been dominated by hip hop DJ's since the early years and the organisers have put a lot of effort into making this somewhat of a pilgrimage for fans of the genre. Mid afternoon was spent attending workshops in DJing, Beatboxing (not a natural) and Popping and Locking. It is really great the access general admit gets fans, rubbing shoulders with Popmaster Fabel of the Rock Steady Crew and official judge DJ Nelson.

 
Battle for Supremacy
First official business of the day was the Battle for Supremacy. A 'back to basics' style battle with competitors going head to head in 60 second and 90 second blocks, with no Serato or laptops allowed. A few of the main events competitors were also taking part in this battle. Erick Jay and DJ Precision gained the respect of the crowd and let their skills do the talking, rather than just dis-heavy samples like some of their rivals. These two DJ's progressed to the Supremacy final and in a very close final round it was DJ Precision who took the title.
The banter of the MC's was dragging a bit so with this being a full day activity, we popped out just before lock out (6pm) for some nearby fried chicken. Upon returning, there was a distinct change to the vibe, the venue was filling up and the crowd were ready to be entertained. Mr Switch was centre stage reminding everyone why he was the current crown holder with a blistering half hour set. 

 
Team Battles 
Next up was the team battles, and in an all new format for 2015 this saw the reigning champs of 2014 take on winners of an online DJ Team Comp with 6 minute sets each. The online team, Fresherthans, went first and although their set was technically good, you could kind of tell they had been practicing in their bedrooms more than performing on stage. Two-time winners of the team championship, 9 O'Clock, were just next level. The crowd and the judges quickly jumped on their side and they took it out 19 points to 14.

 
DJ Battle
Now we reach the real business end of the day, 9 of the world's best DJ's playing back to back 6 minute sets. The panel of judges includes former world champions, DJ Woody and the members of C2C - a French turntablist group who are closing out the event. I'm still backing the New Zealand representative, DJ Spell, who is up second. After the first 30 seconds, you just know this set is going to be good. The crowd is jumping, the judges can't contain their excitement and everyone is genuinely enjoying a near flawless display. A highlight of his set was a re-work of Steppenwolf's classic - Magic Carpet Ride
This will be hard to follow but the remaining DJ's give it a red hot crack! Another highlight was DJ Shota from Japan. Who blends hip hop, rock and even some dubstep into his set. I may have a new favourite.

 
The DJ's keep coming and although there is some impressive skills on display - did I mention one DJ played the slipmats? No vinyl required! I still think DJ Spell is in with a chance.

 
While the judges deliberate, the crowd is treated to a half hour set of crazy turntable skills and amazing lighting and video effects from four time champion team C2C. The ticket to this event could have been twice the price and still great value for money!

 
The final countdown
Finally, it is decision time. Third place is called and it’s DJ Precision, not a bad day at the office for him! Second place is DJ Spell! Congrats man, surely Shota has taken it out.

 
First place is called and it’s DJ Vekked (Canada), who is also the Online Champion for 2015! Ouch, there was a few boo's from the crowd and as I made my way out, lots of support for the New Zealander to be crowned champ.

 
So a bit of controversy to finish the night, but upon re-watching Vekked's set, the guy did scratch up some old video game sounds so props to that! 

 

Tuesday
Sep292015

OutsideIn Festival review 2015

Words by Margaret Tra.

As an avid hip hop lover, living in Australia can be quite frustrating. So when I originally saw the line-up for the OutsideIn Festival my heart skipped a beat. So many hip hop acts in one festival including Big K.R.I.T, Devin the Dude and Stormzy. I will admit that when Bilal was no longer on the list I cried a little inside, but hey we can’t have it all now can we?

With three stages, burgers and an endless amount of musical entertainment, the festival was a hit. Even the DJ’s I had never stumbled on before were fusing Aaliyah and Ginuine tracks into their house sounds. 

The first act that we caught was Devin the Dude on the main stage, a rapper so happy and humble that he’s smooth beats and timeless raps made his set unforgettable. He played his greatest hits ‘I’m just getting blowed’ and Doobie Ashtray, the only thing we missed out on was him playing with his drone on stage.

Next up was the grime legend that is Stormzy on the Red Bull stage, and well what can we say. When the set was over the last thing we wanted him to do was shut up. Grime brings something out of people and Stormzy delivered. The audience was hanging on each and every single one of his words, if I didn’t fear being squashed the death, I may have ventured to the front. Still from my view Stormzy killed it, and dare I say it won’t be long until we see him again. 

Lucky last we have Big K.R.I.T, Big comes out thrashing, ready to murder the stage. Rapping his classics and some of his new material with the crowd bobbing their heads up and down in unison. Devin the Dude also came on the stage blessing the audience with something they’ll never forget in their life.

Despite the rain OutsideIn pulled it together, with undercover areas and stages covered, a part from one of course but festival goers didn’t mind. It was a festival filled with people who had a passion and love for music which was seen through the audiences movements throughout the night and the way the festival was conducted by its team. We look forward to seeing it grow and to see what they have for us next year. Hip hop in Australia is alive, thanks to the team at OutsideIn.

 

Thursday
Sep242015

TRE REDEAU - 'DOJA' VIDEO PREMIERE Review

Words by Bree Stewart.

I'm rollin all this doja in my sleep man…

Tre Redeau’s “Doja” clip Ft. Dizzy Wright and Blossom has got our eyeballs super pleased; not to mention two ears filled with absolute chill. The Portland based MC serves listeners who are fed up with their long shift under the man, shirt unbuttoned, collar popped, settling down into VEVO to some easy mellow rap dedicated to the great Mary Jane.

The production echoes experimental Cudi bred with some early People Under the Stairs. The best thing is, this is only a taster - hit up Tre’s soundcloud for more epic production from his latest project Kool-Aid Stand.

 


Tuesday
Sep222015

Leron Thomas - 'Cliquish' Album Review

Words by Harry Upton.
'Cliquish' is the latest full length release from NYC based Jazz, Funk and Soul artist Leron Thomas, due out on October 16th (via Heavenly Sweetness).
This next paragraph is usually where I would try and define the genre of this album for you, but Thomas has built a reputation over recent years as quite the improviser, something which becomes more apparent as I listen through the 12 tracks and 56 minutes of 'Cliquish'. I hear tastes of funk, jazz and rock, dashes of hip hop and R&B, and sometimes a blend of two or three genres within one track! 

Not originally a singer, Thomas was persuaded to take to the mic by his regular collaborator Bilal (who also features on this record). Lucky for us he did! His style is unique and the listener first gets introduced to his story telling during the title track after chants of "Im so glad… I'm not a part of your clique.”

More humorous story telling is found on the fun and funky "Snicka bar,” and this track along with the more mellow space funk of "Role Play" has me drawing comparisons with the godfather of funk, George Clinton. "Role Play" is certainly a stand out though, it is the type of track that would be equally at home blasting from festival size speakers or enjoyed through your own little boombox at a Sunday BBQ, it can be enjoyed on different levels.

Be careful where you play "Asako" however, as this number might just blow up your little boombox! The catch cry is "Ambitious ways and no sex today" and this track needs to be played loud. Hints of TV on the Radio and Saul Williams can be heard as the guitar drives and the drums crash. They are joined by electrified horns and Thomas' distinct vocal cries before the crescendo is reached. Including a somewhat unexpected jazz breakdown, this rock track ensures a nod to Thomas’ jazz roots. 

Soul tracks "Mandy Jo" and "Don't you Know" are the love ballads of the record and let Thomas really sing. Although they are by no means deadly serious lyrically, there is less of the humour of earlier tracks and this makes for definite highlights.
Overall this is an enjoyable album. Book ended by trumpet solo's (Thomas is a trumpet player by trade), there is no shortage of great horn hooks on this record. Though these are often accompanied by funk-style slap bass, some heavy drums and whining guitars. He certainly crams a lot into the hour of genre hopping, but nothing feels rushed! Fans of music in general, not any particular genre, should certainly give this record a spin.

4 stars.

 

For those in London you can catch Leron Thomas at his official Album Release Party on November 5 at The Jazz Cafe. He is also performing a string of European dates including the MAMA Festival in Paris on October 15.

Links: www.leronthomas.com