LIVE REVIEW: Grandmaster Flash: Hip-Hop, People, Places and Things @ Sage Gateshead (06.09.18) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Grandmaster Flash’s Hip-Hop, People, Places and Things sends an important message about the origins of one of the most popular cultures on the planet. In much the same vein as Ice Cube’s legendary “Are we rock and roll” acceptance speech, Flash showed us how that same spirit gave us hip-hop as it is today.

Flash’s own style has always been unique. With the recent proliferation of house and techno DJs, there really aren’t many on the circuit mixing with quite the same intensity. Of the more contemporary selectors there’s only really DJ EZ who stands out for his scratching and rewinds. However both were in abundance here, as the evening provided the rare opportunity to spend time in the company of hip-hop royalty. The choice of venue was also superb. Flash’s production treads a fine line between live show and DJ set, and Sage Gateshead is one of the only spots in the North East capable of doing it justice. Flash’s signature turntables were on stage beneath a large projector; switching between iconic images from hip-hop past and previously unseen album artwork taken from some of his rarer vinyl. The screen would intermittently turn to a live recording of Flash’s hands as they danced around the mixer, giving a unique perspective to a unique skill.

He began with a salvo of breaks from the 70s and 80s; while in between Flash would explain the origins of the New York Block party and the genesis of hip-hop itself. Whereas the first half set the scene, the latter half cut across eras and genres as Flash called upon more famous records which defined their generation. The dexterity of his selections saw him call upon stadium rock anthems such as AC/DC’s Back in Black and Aerosmith’s Walk This Way.

There was also a nod to the late, great Aretha Franklin, as well as other equally influential artists who are no longer with us. Hip-hop pioneers were remembered alongside breakdancers, MCs and producers from the past 40 years. A more detailed look at the evolution of the genre would probably come from a book as opposed to a stage show, but it wouldn’t be half as fun.

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