By Jake Ebdale
Date / Venue: Saturday May 10th, The Powerstation, Auckland
I need a massage. When I signed up to review the DJ Premier and Pete Rock back to back deck battle at thePowerstation, I knew two things. Firstly, that both guys in their prime were unbeatable. Two, that their mark on the industry is unmatched. It is well known that the major artists since 'Step in the Arena' - I'm talking Jay Dilla, Flume, Fly Lo, Black Milk, etc etc - all took notes from these two giants of hip hop. Premo and Soul Brother #1 not only unleashed the classics, the colabs and everything in between on Saturday night - they took us back to rap's roots. They fucking schooled us, and now my neck hurts from like two hours of white guy head nodding.
For the first 40 minutes, there was no Gangstarr, no CL Smooth - just straight James Brown. For the uninitiated, in the sixties and early seventies, Brown provided an endless wellspring of samples that birthed original hip hop, and if you're reading this and don't know the immortal 'Funky Drummer' break, then slap yourself and start again. This elongated tribute formed a sort of aural exam, the questions sourced from a golden file of the Godfather of Soul. To see Rock and Premo looking up from the decks to see if we knew the relentless 'Soul Power' or 'Give it up and Turn it Loose', well, it was refreshing and humbling all the same. Many of us didn't know, either. Brown didn't get the acknowledgement he deserved before and after his death, and to see a very Caucasian crowd getting ants in their pants (so much so that they had to throw a few drinks on stage - the venue stunk of bad weed too) proved how ahead of his time he really was.
Besides this monumental start, Premo and Rock sourced the original samples for 'California Love', 'My Name Is', 'The Next Episode' and others to further take the crowd to the books - then proceeded to play those career making best ofs, from Nas to Biggie to Guru. 'The World is Yours' and 'Mass Appeal' were my two highlights. I didn't hear INI's 'Fakin' Jax', Rock's exquisite 'Juicy' remix or Premo's thunderous groove on D'Angelo's 'Devil's Pie', but these are only minor gripes for a gig chock full of sugar. If you don't know, now you know - start at the source and work your way forward. This gig was a reminder of old school, mixing on the fly, knowing your shit performance and letting the research speak for itself. Hopefully the crowd loved and learnt - I definitely did. A privilege to witness.