Drake Reviews Grandmaster Flash In Beijing

By Drake Moreau

Last weekend, Yugongyishan, a miniature dungeon-style music venue hidden behind a wooden door near Zhangzizhong Road, brought a hip-hop legend, a man with a name of such repute that you quasi-expect him to show up in a red cape and mask with turntables strapped to his back, his superpower being the ability to spin tracks and scratch vinyls that forces enemies to dance (think Jim Carrey’s The Mask when he sings his samba/Latin song and all the cops break out in song and dance).

I’m talking, of course, about Grandmaster Flash.

In many ways, he didn’t disappoint. I showed up right on time, around 1 am, avoiding the opening acts that I heard were so horrendous it made people almost want to go to Haze for auditory relief.

Per usual, the venue’s dark, grimy feel immediately made my nose hairs recoil, but also made me think this was somewhat appropriate for a DJ who reached his prime in the late-70s/early-80s. He clearly has not moved on from the glory years. But why should he? Old school hip-hop is the tits.

Contrary to my Lil’ Jon escapade, I had less than a handful of drinks before showing up. So I remember shit.

The crowd was in a trance once the Grandmaster hit the stage with a bumping, rhythmic, hip-seducing tantra fueled by heavy bass beats and classic rhymes. About a half-hour into the show, which felt like a warm-up, GMF, like many of the males in attendance I’m sure, blew his load wayyyy too early and played his most notable track, The Message. It’s probably his most influential contribution to music, enough to get him into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, a fact that he had no reservations boasting onstage. Which also points to just how sad the whole spectacle was, if you looked at it in a different light: here’s a legendary DJ, the first DJ in the R&R Hall of Fame, and he has to brag about it to the 100-person audience in a semi-underground Beijing music club.

That being said, once The Message played, the floor never stopped moving. It was a sea of jumping sweatbombs, like the “wave” that people in stadiums make, but of sweat-pouring people just grooving. Head-bobbing, fist-pumping, hip-thrusting, mosh-pitting… it was all there.

Tracks included Biggy’s Juicy (which prompted GMF to scream the question, “How many of y’all miss Biggy?” and then, after screams and woohoos from the crowd, him repeating it again), Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit (which spurred all the punk and grunge douches in the crowd to start a mini mosh pit – pretty pathetic, really), House of Pain’s Jump (I’m sure you can guess what kind of reaction this got from the crowd), and DMX’s Party Up (an anthem you can’t help but rock out to, especially to the lyric: “Y’all niggas remind me of a strip club, cause every time you come around, it’s like I just gotta get my dick sucked”). In fact, almost every song he played was a sick, dance-heavy party song, but I can’t fucking remember a thing. And not – I repeat – because I was drunk. It was just so much fun that I wasn’t paying attention to what he was playing.

One moment that made me feel very 很不好意思 for GMF was when he played Eminem’s My Name Is, and at each “chika-chika, Slim Shady” point, he’d scream out into the mic “GRAND MASTAAA” in a deep kind of voice that only a big black man can do. So, everyone is dancing and loving another rapper’s song, and he’s up there inserting his own name into the middle of it. You may be thinking that other artists do that too. They are sad bastards as well.

Bottom line: the Flash sucks at scratching. Seriously, the guy was slower than my Chinese colleagues responding to emails. And his posse in the corner of the stage that lip-synced every single word to every single rap song he played (one dude was in a vomit green t-shirt, you couldn’t miss him) was a travesty. Not to mention, he didn’t even come out for a fucking encore. He played till 2:30, an hour and a half, and then just walked off. Kind of toolish if you ask me. (Then again, I’m one to talk, right?) But at the end of the day, everyone walked out with their clothes drenched and huge smiles on their faces.

Oh, and I finger-banged a chick on the dance floor.

Like him? Hate him? Just don’t pretend you don’t know someone like him. Drake Moreau can be reached at drake@beijingcream.com. |Drake Archives|

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