Review – Afrika Bambaataa at LED Bar, Vancouver, Feb 27 2014
– review and photos by Zoë Christmas
On Thursday night, L.E.D. Bar on Granville Street hosted a DJ night, headed by hip-hop legend Afrika Bambaataa.
The Bronx’s Bambaataa became prominent in early hip hop not only for his pioneering DJ career and hit singles “Planet Rock” and “Renegades of Funk” with the Soulsonic Force, but also for forming the Universal Zulu Nation – an international hip-hop awareness culture. These days, Bambaataa sticks to DJ sets while he completes a three-year post at Cornell University Library’s Hip Hop Collection.
As it happened, the event at L.E.D. had a lot to do with the archiving of hip-hop music and its early influences. Starting the night was DJ Flipout, who mixed classic and rare funk 45s from the seventies and eighties, from James Brown to Cheryl Lynn to the Jackson Sisters. At around midnight, Bambaataa took over the turn tables, starting with “Good Times” by Chic, followed by “Express Yourself” by Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band and “Think” by Lynn Collins. Though he didn’t speak once through the mic, Bambaataa had a hype man who kept the crowd grooving.
For about two hours Bambaataa kept the dance floor active, playing live mixes of rap hits from the likes of Kurtis Blow, House of Pain, Run DMC, Eminem and DMX, and even played a mix of his own “Planet Rock”. He also paid tribute to unlikely rap influences such as Prince, Nirvana and Queen. (I was floored when he briefly sampled my current favourite rare eighties club hit, “Weekend” by Class Action!)
Bambaataa’s unique and rare DJ set complemented L.E.D. Bar’s intimate (read: minuscule) space. The sound and lights were perfect, and Bambaataa’s smug silence fell in line with his overall elusiveness.