“It's Like A Jungle Sometimes It Makes Me Wonder How I Keep From Going Under”
In 1982, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five sang those words and they started something that has evolved into one of the most popular music genres in the world.
That moment represents a snapshot where one of the earliest rap pioneers created a sound that is still recognized almost instantaneously by people young and old and almost always has you unknowingly singing the first few lyrics.
Since that time, Grandmaster Flash became the first rapper inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, rap has evolved in a massive artist medium, and “The Message” has played at almost every wedding I have ever been to.
Flash forward to 2014, and Grandmaster Flash is now playing at a bowling alley within the O2 Arena in London (more on Brooklyn Bowl later). Now 56 years old, Grandmaster Flash is almost professorial when he begins his set, as he incites wisdom to the growing crowd imploring them to get on the dance floor to take part in his vision for the night.
He talks about the roots of hip-hop coming from Jazz, Blues, Funk, Disco, and Rock. It is charming to see him mix the various tracks from the 70s to the present, although he is almost 60 he doesn’t look or act like it as he grooves on stage. However, his set isn’t exactly experimental or all that interesting, rather it sounds much like playlists of the wedding DJs that play his famous track every weekend- some Diana Ross, some Michael Jackson, a jump to modern hip hop with Jay Z and Kanye, and of course “The Message” as an encore.
While the crowd enjoyed it and no one left too disappointed, Grandmaster Flash may have been better off taking us through his encyclopedic hip hop knowledge. While it is always a pleasure to spend a night with a legend and member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it is sometimes more enjoyable to just hear them talk shop, which is what really separates Grandmaster Flash from the DJ at your nephew’s bar mitzvah who plays the same playlist.
As far as Brooklyn Bowl, it is definitely a unique venue to catch a gig. Blue Ribbon does an extremely tasty and indulgent take on Southern US cuisine. The bowling alley in the venue may sound a bit cheesy, but it is off to the side and done in a way so that it is a fun addition rather than a distraction. The only strange thing was the dance floor, which has boards that are 1.5 meter tall and reminds you of a roller-skating rink from the 70s. It makes it awkward to get close to the stage, and for the lesser-known artists it made the place feel empty.
Written by Dave Polonsky