SPOTIFY PLAYLIST LINK – BYT x MDBP 2013
Continuing in their fine tradition of being the hyper-intelligent class clowns shooting silly string at the zeitgeist, Mad Decent – the most mainstream of indie labels – is in the midst of their sixth consecutive year of summer “block parties.” In 2008 the label would quite literally shut down the block surrounding their then headquarters at a converted mausoleum in North Philadelphia for the day. For ten hours or so, its global roster of progressive talents in dance, rock and rap would perform for a throng of revelers consisting of locals and hipster supporters who would migrate to the City of Brotherly Love. As Mad Decent’s renown has grown, so has the label’s desire to take their message to the people. 2013’s “Block Parties” are that in name only. Now a thirteen-city summer tour celebrating the wild edge of where hip-hop’s swagger and punk rock’s freewheeling DIY notions meets EDM with a strong global sensibility, the Mad Decent Block Party tour hits the DC/Baltimore area on August 2nd at the Merriweather Post Pavilion. If headed to the event for the day, here’s a preview of who’s playing, and what you can expect from the soundtrack of the afternoon.
Label head Diplo’s one-third of the retooled Major Lazer with Walshy Fire and Jillionaire. 2013 released Free the Universe is yet another brashly progressive take on traditional reggae and dancehall expectations. If an area-specific EDM supporter, “Watch Out for This (Bumaye)” is moombahton’s anthem of the year. The muy macho Fania intonations of Willie Colon and Ruben Blades combine with the production know how of Dutch producers The Flexican and FS Green plus the progressive mindset of Mad Decent to make an otherworldly jam. The astounding festival-ready power of dubstep anthem “Jah No Partial” will be in effect as well, plus ubiquitous Major Lazer classic “Pon the Floor.” As for the rest of the set? Expect an strange blend of vapid Miami nightlife meeting taking a trip into urban environments worldwide.
TRAP – FLOSSTRADAMUS AND LUNICE
If not for J2K and Autobot – aka Chicago-based DJ/producer duo Flosstradamus – deciding to make a trap rap-styled remix of Major Lazer single “Original Don,” the pop crossover of the trap movement would have never started in earnest. As well, Frenchman Lunice is one-half of TNGHT with Glaswegian producer Hudson Mohawke, and one listen to their collaboration “Higher Ground” pretty much gives you a sense of their excellence in making hip-hop more EDM friendly than ever before. Both Flosstradamus and Lunice are grandfathers of this incredibly popular style so, if this is (as many suspect) the last hurrah at this level of fame for “gettin’ turnt up,” then these sets should be filled with mayhem and sheer insanity.
PROGRESSIVE BASS – SBTRKT (DJ set), SKREAM, ZEDS DEAD AND GRIZ
Future-friendly sounds in soul and R & B are quite popular at the moment, and not unlike have the deans of taking things to the trap represented, the 2013 Mad Decent Block Party brings two acts in particular, in SBTRKT and Skream who are legends in the style. Don’t let the African masks worn live fool you into thinking that’s all that there is to London duo Aaron Jerome and Sampha’s live remix act. “Wildfire” is off-kilter, yet funkier than hell and still a smooth winner. Furthermore, though he famously no longer plays dubstep live, Skream is a UK-based bass legend who probably will have more than a few tricks up his sleeve. Zeds Dead is a Toronto-based duo that, true to their hometown blend dub reggae and rap style with drum and bass, break-beat friendly glitch hop and hard electro. Griz is a 21-year old rising star from Detroit, his style bringing a bluesy soul into heavy bass that is a terrific blend of the past, present and future.
OUTLIERS – RiFF RAFF AND ANAMANAGUCHI
Say what you will about RiFF RAFF, but the Houston emcee is staying in his own lane and absolutely driving unimpeded to the top of the rap game. On weirdo pop songs like “Orion’s Belt” with Florida-to-Brooklyn ingenue Kitty and wacky bangers like “We Are Llamas” and “Neato” with fellow Three Loco clown princes Andy Milonakis and Dirt Nasty, his off-kilter flow and stage-stealing presence shine. Hate him if you must but you absolutely cannot but doubt his hustle.
Every year, Mad Decent attempts to book an act that’s literally at the core of where real life meets the internet. For what will likely appear to be a far larger percentage of the attendees than you’d probably expect, the highlight of the afternoon will undoubtedly be Anamanaguchi, the “chiptune” indie rock band from New York City that owes their sound as much to the Legend of Zelda as they do to the Beach Boys. Pop for the adderall and Red Bull era, the band has an album successfully funded through Kickstarter and have an active and engaged fanbase.
OF LOCAL NOTE – DJ SAY WUT AND U HALL BBQ STAGE
DJ Say Wut is a legend of the frenetic, dance-friendly style known as Baltimore club music. A whole lot more than Rod Lee’s “Dance My Pain Away” and DJ Class’ “I’m the Shit,” for the past 25 years the genre has existed as an offshoot of Baltimore’s particularly soulful take on house music. Key here to the story is that when Diplo was just a DJ and cutting his teeth with his Hollertronix party in Philadelphia, it was Bmore club alongside southern crunk bangers that gave him a unique style that arguably led to his growth. Say Wut’s incredible, his 2009 hit “Streets of Baltimore” a heavy, hard and funky take on Bmore club that in sampling the theme to the classic TV program “Streets of San Francisco” is probably one of the most intriguing productions in any sound of the past five years.
Washington and Baltimore have always existed as areas that have influenced the progressive edge of mainstream music. Whether in punk or dance, the local area has always been important. The rise of U Street Music Hall as a venue has set the DC/Baltimore influence for another generation and is celebrated at this stage. Names like Billy The Gent, Nacey, Steve Starks, Obeyah, HYX & H0U5T0N, Ransom, Weii, Lemz, Rez, Nature Rage, Jon Kwest all have resonance with the artists at the top of the game these days, however, unlike before, the local acts are quite possibly all one step away from reaching the next level.
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