Things were not going as I expected from the word go. This promised to be a night of Hip Hop decadence from the man most claim kickstarted the genre, and Will Smith’s sidekick in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. For starters the doors were not opened until 10pm and there was still no sign of either DJ as 11 rolled by. This was not going to be a night for those planning an early night.
Although Jazzy Jeff was billed as the headline act, it was Grandmaster Flash who most of the young, mainly white, crowd had come to see. This was highlighted by the rapturous reception the three quarters full auditorium gave him when he finally arrived on stage at around half past eleven.
You are, of course, allowed to be late when you are hailed by many as the forefather of Hip Hop. Raised in The Bronx district of New York and part member of the Furious Five, by the mid 1970’s Flash was on course for his 1982 album, The Message, the first hip hop album, He also acted as inspiration for Funkmaster Flex, Jazzy Jeff, Jam Master Jay (RIP) and a generation of others.
When he eventually sauntered on with an air of uncertainty, he bellowed “Do you want to hear some old school?”.He was met with a murmur, and this was not going well. The crowd needed some dynamite where the sun doesn’t shine, and this it promptly got. Grandmaster Flash left his decks and came to the front of the stage and started, what he called, an old school jam. Left to right he ran, up and down he jumped. He shouted and bounced and eventually the crowd let go. And you know what? White men can’t dance. But this didn’t matter. Soon the place was alive.
And the songs, oh the songs. 1973 to 2003. Star Wars to Dre. The Sugarhill Gang, LL Cool J, Run DMC, Michael Jackson, House of Pain, KRS-1 and the old school records that the man made and made famous finally weaved their magic. There was no light show, no special effects. This was for the purist. Man, woman, boy, girl they all danced like it was 1979 on a New York project. For an hour and a half, it was disco in Nottingham. And then it stopped.
There is no doubting that Jazzy Jeff is a DJ of the highest calibre but his scratch routine, for all its technical ability, did not grace the class we had witnessed from Grandmaster Flash. This was evident when the steadily depleting crowd gave their biggest reception to the 1991 hit Summertime. It is rare that you get to witness greatness though, especially in Nottingham. Hip Hop thanks you Grandmaster Flash.