Sunday, March 19, 2000

Top hip-hoppers blast Annie's

Enquirer contributor

        No contemporary form of music is more self-conscious of what passes for cutting-edge than hip-hop. But as in all forms of music, not much ever surfaces in hip-hop that is altogether new. The only important distinctions are those as old as time: what's good and what's bad.

        Two acts that would claim to be blazing some sort of trail in hip-hop played Annie's Thursday night — DJ Mix Master Mike and MC Rahzel. Both were good, but the DJ's music was a little more out there.

Rock-star cachet
        Mix Master Mike, who joined the Beastie Boys on their last album and corresponding tour, concocted a nonstop 50-minute set of high-speed drum beats, sound effects and occasional patchwork melodies. The collage was club-worthy, stuff that in other circumstances would have made a crowd pack the floor, dance and not give a thought to who was spinning the records. But considering his Beasties pedigree, Mike has rock-star cachet, so the crowd of 600 stood and faced him, cheering along to the music's ebb and flow.

        Using two turntables — “the one's and two's” as they were called several times during the show — and a selection of vinyl records Mike was able to create a sound that was his own. There were recognizable pieces of music here and there, but most of his samples were more obscure than those used earlier in the show.

        Mike followed Rahzel, a member of the Roots, who is also a singular figure in hip-hop, but whose act isn't unique to pop culture.

        Rahzel is today's top human beat box, creating noises and sound effects with his mouth in a way that brings to mind that guy from the Police Academy movies. It was at times an unbelievable act to watch: Him singing the melody of Zapp's “Computer Love” while simultaneously beat-boxing the rhythm brought the room down. But it was also sort of gimmicky. Those Police Academy movies haven't really held up, and Rahzel's too good a pure rapper to be doing more sound effects than rapping.

Almost stole show
        In fact, Rahzel's DJ, JS-One, almost stole the set with a 10-minute solo act before his boss took the stage. He spun and cut a sort of '80s tribute featuring music by Run-DMC, Eric B. and Rakim, and Newcleus that certainly wasn't anything new, but was definitely good.


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