Captains log, September 2004.
I’ve landed at the Atlantic Center mall in Brooklyn, Atlantic and State Street. In the walkway between the DMV and MARSHALLS. KC, a fellow traveler, gives a salute to a tall dark figure wearing a hat and shades. He looks up and replies in like manner, I recognise his pitch, all of a sudden I feel like I’m falling backward into that old movie Wild Style. It’s Fab Five Freddie! About seven syllables were the extent of their short dialog as if they vaguely know each other, though when reserved KC talks there’s certainly some bond. KC is King of Chill if you can follow me back to MC Lyte’s album: Lyte as a rock, you can put a face to the name. KC’s from way, way, beyond back where I’m standing right now, only I’m in London and its 1986 Kurt AKA Mono Man is scratching sh sh sh Chang’e a beat. Yep, I repeat, scratching –London-1986. For those unaware, the European equivalent of that cultural energy that King of Chill and Fab 5 Freddie harnessed in the Apple was West Londons Laylow Ladbroke Grove, chiefly Powis Square the home of The Krew, Cash Crew, Break Jam, The Clash, Dizzy Heights and Flakey C to name but a few.
So why is it that at this time when most of the UK was listening to Jazz Funk and Steve Arrington’s Dancing in the key of life on Radio Horizon, the beats of Whizz kid, Herbie Hancock, Schooly D and Run DMC was blasting from speakers parallel to the early New York Hip Hop scene? Someone tripped forward in time and returned to Ladbroke Grove with what was to become the beat of the street, lino and all. I’D LIKE TO SAY IT WAS ME but it was already poppin when I embraced this culture. At this time an independent record shop called Rough trade on Talbot Road was selling Zulu Beat mixtapes featuring DJ Afrika Islam (The Son of Bambaataa) and Jazzy Jay. Listening to these tapes gave us the insight and the inspiration leaving us with two choices: Dream about being there or Create our own version. We did the latter. Within the next five years for the London Hip Hop scene, it was like JFK international straight to Powis Square. Queen Lateefa, the Jungle Brothers, Rocksteady Crew, Fab 5, Freddy, Brim, Futura 2000, Debbie Harry, Grand Master Flash and a host of others all blessed West London, in particular, teaching the novices a perfect collaboration of the combined arts that formed Hip Hop.
It’s 97 I’m still not over “The Infamous” album by Mobb Deep. I’m living and working in a salon in Brooklyn’s Fort Green: A direct parallel to Ladbroke Grove as a cultural hub. A local patron and writer Kevin Powell has invited the whole salon to his book launch party at a venue near the West Side Highway in Manhattan. After we get past security into this magnificent warehouse, reminiscent of the Dome – west London party paradise of the 80’s, only cleaner and better lit we mingle with the illuminated celebrities faces. DJ Stretch Armstrong and Bobitto are on the turntables and amongst others like actress Garcelle Beauvais, I recognise non-other than Crazy Legs from the Rocksteady Crew. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3ZNFGE8PZE&feature=related
Such a scene had me regress back once again leaving ma boy Fab standing alone in this NY warehouse looking confused, with lots a questions. I arrived back in 1983 at London’s Covent Garden, another stop off for the new American Hip Hop stars of the 80’s where they discover there is a world and a scene outside of NY, and of course Ladbroke Grove…..