The Scene: Sometimes the best live performances come from honoring the original masters. When DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist electrified the Ogden Theatre for the Renegades of Rhythm Tour, they devoted themselves to the King of Hip-Hop and record master, Afrika Bambaataa. Culling nearly a thousand records from Bambaataa’s forty thousand plus collection, Shadow and Cut Chemist set out this fall on a twenty-five-date tour to honor the legacy of Afrika Bambaataa and expose younger generations to the “Amen Ra of Hip-Hop Culture.” Not surprisingly, the Ogden was packed when we arrived and you could feel the excitement bubbling in the room. Serious crate diggers, Hip-Hop purists and fans of Shadow and Chemist’s modern output were crammed into the room as their production team set up a makeshift model of New York City and the Bronx in the background.
DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist: The night began with a basic overview of the project and the process in selecting the music for the tour from the archives at Cornell University where Bambaataa was appointed to a three-year term as a visiting scholar in 2012. Accompanied by six turntables, two boxes of records and a colorful pictorial history on a projector screen, Shadow and Cut Chemist dove headfirst into the early dawn of Hip-Hop.
Despite some minor sound issues in the beginning, the performance was a joyous revelation. The robotic sounds of “Planet Rock” soon gave way to a myriad of Latin and African music that had the crowd cheering in fits of happiness. Moving from the late 1960’s through the 1980’s and Bambaataa’s commercial success, DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist wove and masterfully scratched their way through his legacy and diverse collection of vinyl.
Both beat makers coexisted on stage like seasoned veterans. Shadow was his typically calm, confident self, preferring to let Cut Chemist run off in mad dashes of trickery. There were occasional well-timed historical references from both men and the show moved swiftly in well-conceived sections. The peak of the set arrived in the waning minutes as the show moved into Breakdancing heaven with both artists pulling record after record from the crates. The crowd responded and several B-Boys even took flight in the lower sections of the room as they brought the old school heat.
I haven’t been to a show that made me smile this much in a long time. It’s a treat to see two of the most incredible DJ’s in the world on one stage. Hand them a collection of legendary vinyl that belongs in a museum and it changes the game.
Stage Presence: A-
Set/Light Show: A-