Ice-T/ Grandmaster Flash/ The Jungle Brothers/ Afrika Bambaataa Essential Festival, Brighton

On a blazing summer's day in Brighton, in a medium-sized tent, the history of hip-hop was revealed. Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, The Jungle Brothers and Ice-T on the same stage was almost too complete to be true. It was, of course, shadowed for some by the spectres of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls, murdered men who have become dubious martyrs. Monday's bill could be viewed as the story of hip-hop's descent to that state, from the cold protesting fury of Grandmaster Flash's "The Message" through The Jungle Brothers' Afrocentric oasis of calm to Ice-T's origination of gangsta-rap, which some blame directly for the stars lying cold in the ground.

Two DJs began the lesson, in contrasting style. Afrika Bambaataa was once the samurai-clad leader of the Soul Sonic Force, the man who with "Planet Rock" allied hip-hop to Kraftwerk, anticipating techno. On Monday, he took the stage alone, almost unnoticed, absentmindedly mixing records with a modernistic sheen, as if his legend was a long way behind him, as if the present was all that mattered.

Grandmaster Flash took his mystique more seriously. The music he made used fragments of hip-hop's first sources - James Brown, Chic, old soul. His scratching was as warm, as redolent of history as the records he sampled, but his unsentimental presence kept the mix alive until he cursed the sound and was gone, the impression of erratic genius careering by confirmed.

The Jungle Brothers must have wished to obliterate parts of their past - the dark days when their leading role in the Native Tongues, the movement they formed with De la Soul and A Tribe Called Quest, had left them stranded as rap toughened and moved on. They peered back anyway, through their long, influential history of conscious funk.

But it was their new single, "Brain", which brought them into focus. It was almost a love song, wistful for a future which, having survived rap's attrition this long, they could almost believe in.

Then they led the crowd in an old chant: "Peace, unity, love and havin' fun," over a sea of raised peace-signs. "This is how we used to do it," they said defiantly. "This is how we still do it." And this is why the Native Tongues recently reformed, the same exhaustion at black bloodshed that De La Soul's last record caught. Waving peace-signs in a tent for once seemed a valid response.

In the subtext of the day, Ice-T might have seemed part of the problem, and he knew how it looked. "I took a perfectly innocent music, and added drugs, bitches, money, gunshots," he confessed. "Totally fucked up hip- hop, didn't I?" More than anyone else, Ice-T took all the conflicts in rap's history on stage with him. He played up his hustler image. He hit brutal heights in descriptions of death worthy of James Ellroy ("You end up shot, wind up lookin' at a zip-lock"), then warned against drugs. Freestyling what he'd do to "white bitches", he paused to explain why women shouldn't be offended.

His act walked a razor's edge, leaning one way then the other, coaxing everyone with him. Posing as hip-hop's bad seed, he smoothed over the shuddering leaps between each of the previous acts' eras, emphasising continuities. He ended with a new rap as stuffed with positivity as The Jungle Brothers. As a last touch, he bowed and doffed his hat.

Treading round the fault-lines on which so many think hip-hop is ready to crack, he completed the day's job - to show that hip-hop can not only zoom in on ghetto catastrophe, but rise above it: a musical nation which doesn't deserve to have its heroes in the ground, and was relieved to find so many still moving.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model of a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
    She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

    Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

    The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
    American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

    Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

    James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
    Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

    Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

    Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution