11th July | Fleece
On a summer’s evening, The Fleece’s doorway typically floods out smoking and drinking gig attendees onto its cobbled street, but there was a sense of spectacle when I arrived, and an expectant rowdiness in the air. This energy was greatly manipulated by the support DJ, Mr Hare (of Bristol’s Hip Hop Coffee Shop squad). Hare scratched like an absolute pro, though from what I can tell it’s fairly early into his dj-ing career. His scratching grew more and more complex and witty, slicing through nostalgia-raging, heart-burning old-school melodies and teasing us with bumbling familiar beats.
His skills were championed further when the headliner’s DJ, Ty Dynasty, began to prepare for his set on stage and was immediately stopped in his tracks, nodding appreciatively and grinning at Hare’s performance. At times he seemed almost perplexed by the quality of his scratching and ensured the audience gave him plenty of applause. It was a goosebump-inducing, body-shaking opening to the night.
It was Sugarhill Gang’s time to wow us next, and the shame of my lack of trust in their abilities to wow us poured over me within the first ten seconds of their set. But can I really be blamed when so many artists fail to cut the mustard some 40 years on into their career? From the get-go the SHG members Master Gee and Hen Dogg were in a clearly-rehearsed yet naturally slick routine, diving across the stage, weaving in and out of syncronised steps and rapping coherently in their thick New Jersey accents, spreading messages of love and infectious music.
This was high intensity at its best, bringing no cheesy clichés, just pure slick values. Even Hen Dogg pulled off his top hat, shades, tracksuit and cane get-up. Their coolness was paired beautifully with their reflective jokes on their age and the journey they’ve been on to get to the now. And of course it’s always flattering to hear that Bristol has always been in their hip-hop landmark list.
Melle Mel and Scorpio, the last two remaining members of The Furious Five, gave me everything I needed from their set too: more sweat-breeding, bounce-worthy goodness, covering all their greatest tunes, and let’s face it both groups have plenty to choose from. Melle Mel didn’t miss the chance to spread a positive message either, commenting on the quality and meaningfulness of their lyrics: “We ain’t here to talk about drugs and how many people we’ve shot.” Nor did he neglect his opportunity to show off his muscular physique, which for me was the only awkward and unnecessary thing about the entire evening.
Joined once again by The Sugarhill Gang, both legendary acts continued to create singalong moments in their seamless routine, until ending the set with Dynasty in the audience, dancing, singing and sweating in union. Pulling on our hip-hop heartstrings, The Sugarhill Gang and The Furious Five clubbed together in true hip-hop style, to prove that 40 years later, their music is just as vital and worthy as it was back then, stamping out any doubts that legendary performers could live on in such an honest, sparkling, smooth form.
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