This state of affairs not only reflects the sorry predicament of US hip-hop, a former hive of activity which has been demolished by its own politics, but is testament to the extraordinary weight of the Nineties phenomenon, the remix.
With Jason Nevins's version of the early Eighties track "It's Like That", Run DMC, the aged godfathers of rap, have recently enjoyed a lucrative revival and a seven-week number one slot. Tori Amos and Cornershop are among other acts to have prospered under the spell of the remix. Following their lead are the Jungle Brothers, founding fathers of the Native Tongues Collective, a convergence of opinions during the late Eighties that included Queen Latifah, A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul, who have lately reappeared with a new album and a clutch of remixes by the Stereo MCs, Aphrodite and Natural Born Chillers.
Unfortunately, on Friday night the remixers were the notable absentees. Despite exuding all the physical mannerisms of a rabble-rousing rap duo, the Jungle Brothers' banter failed to travel further than the edge of the stage and sounded more like two guys having a vociferous, though unintelligable, debate. The presence of turntables did nothing to liven the proceedings while a mysterious figure playing bongos at the back of the stage similarly failed to make an impact.
Opening with "Jungle Brother", the two rappers could barely make themselves heard over the audience chit-chat and several members of the crowd looked around questioningly, as if charlatans had just invaded the stage. Where were their beloved basslines, breakbeats and jazzy textures as lavished on the Jungle Brothers' songs by their celebrity collaborators?
The pace picked up after a while as the beleaguered Brothers resorted to shouting louder, but they might have done better to have a quiet word with the man at the mixing desk.
Each number ran indistinguishably into the next, while their efforts to engage in the traditional call-and-response banter only succeeded towards the end of the show by which stage the Forum's baggy-trousered clientele were sufficiently lubricated to join in.
The Brothers' old maxim "Peace, unity, love and havin' fun" - originally initiated in the Eighties by their opposition to hip-hop bloodshed, repeatedly bellowed between tracks, sounded fanciful in the light of the recent gangland deaths, while their minimal sound, quickfire rapping and a single turntable beat, felt jarringly dated. The audience, rather piqued by this stage, would have done better to have gone home and played their remixes.
Fiona SturgesReuse content