After a 10 hour wait at Lyon airport last week to come home after the Oxmo Puccino show, the travelling involved for DJ Premier in London was much easier going. 10 minutes on the Number 31 bus and I've arrived outside the Jazz Cafe in Camden with a fully charged camera, a pocket full of Mango Kush and not a single ash cloud in sight to halt the journey.
DJ Premier hit the UK earlier in the year for a March date at Matter at the 02 arena with a load of other DJs and MCs and returned for last night’s show for the first stop of a tour which will see him move on to Norway for 2 nights before heading off to China . This show promised to be all the more poignant with the recent and untimely passing of Guru still fresh in everyone’s minds. As all TheRapBuzz.com members were out of the country on either business or pleasure it was left to resident photographer Sefton "I love it when they call me Big Poppa" Blake to wave the La Cantina flag and properly papp proceedings before reporting back to the masses.
The Jazz Café is an awesome hip hop venue, spread over two floors with the stage and decks in full view it's a decent size whilst still being intimate enough to really feel the acts. Particularly at home on the stage and with an ever increasing following were the Droppin’ Science DJ collective who provided more than ample support to the big man. Armed with an apple mac and time code vinyls DJ Daredevil threw down some crazy doubles of early 90’s beats, beat juggled with Eric B and Rakim’s 'Don’t Sweat the Technique' and had the crowd going crazy singing along to Cypress Hill’s 'Could Just Kill A Man'. DJ Matman was then standing by taking us though the hip hop ages moving from Pharcyde and KRS-1 to Jay-Z and Nas and then Biggie and Keith Murray. Credit where credit is due – Daredevil and Matman kept the crowd noisy and more than entertained for well over 3 hours with classic beats, killer cuts and doubles on practically every track.
Preemo himself turned up around 10.15 going straight on stage to set-up after what sounded like a nightmare journey which saw his flight from New York get cancelled, none of his crew being able to fly with him, taking a flight alone to Paris and then finally the Eurostar to London. After this brief explication and introduction DJ Premier made it clear for all present right from the get go that the night was to be a tribute to Guru. In his characteristic velvet gravel voice Preemo blessed the person, the life, the family, the music and the legacy of his former Ganstarr partner with a moving couple of minute’s parlance.
By this time the crowd were gagging for it and when Preemo kicked things off with cuts of Gangstarr tracks from the first few albums they responded with that unique collective sound of “whoa”, “yeah” and “ooh” all rolled into one sound that you only hear at a hip hop show with 'Militia' followed by 'Above the Clouds' getting the loudest cheers and the highest jumps.
The crowd was pumped and Premier, you could say, was already pretty emotionally charged so when some twat in the crowd dressed like a member of Goldie Looking Chain with a fake afro wig and over size necklace shouted out "you're not a gangstar" he went on a realness rant, blaming him for disrespecting Guru's soul and shot the guy down big style shouting, "what the fuck do you know little boy, I'm a G!" - this got the loudest shouts of the night. "You know what you haven't got" screamed a pi$$ed off DJ Premier, "Skills!!!" and with that he dropped the Ownerz album track - the crowd went off all sorts of chains!!!!!
Phat beat was followed by phat beat after phat beat as we moved from the classic Gangstarr catalogue to the Preemo produced tracks by MOP and Group Home which left heads nodding hard. From here we were all treated to some of the classic Biggie tracks 'Machine Gun Funk' and, of course, '10 Crack Commandments' – I couldn’t spot anyone not singing along which is cool considering I saw men, women and children of all ages, races, styles and backgrounds - some seriously unsuspecting DJ Premier fans crawled out of the woodwork for this one - including one old lady who must have been at least 65 who had her hand in the air like she really didnt care all night long - true heads!
Very little actual mixing going on mainly as he had to perform mic duties as well but this was cool as between tracks Preems would tell a little Gangstarr or Guru related story - one about how the group was formed, the stages it went through and one about how much of a ballsy little scrapper Guru used to be back in the day.
Whilst Daredevil and Matman ripped the decks up technically earlier on, DJ Premier was there to show he is more than just a track master - cutting, scratching and juggling with the best of them and there was more to come as we neared the end of the set with some more classics from the likes of Big L and Big Pun as well as some more recent beats he's done for Termanology. The highlight was 'Salute Pt II' at the end of the show with Preems introducing the track with the story of how and why it was made, dropping the track and shouting out Guru's verse through the mic - the look on his face was priceless, he was proper feeling it.
I left more than satisfied having seen a living hip hop legend in action and was impressed how he ran the stage and controlled the crowd for over 2 hours. I went straight home and spun every Chris Martin record I own – DJ Premier that is, not Coldplay.