NEWSFLASH!: Chemist Revives Hip Hop on Sunset Blvd!

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photo by Koury Angelo

Earlier this week, Mr. Lucas McFadden (a.k.a. Cut Chemist) visited Morning Becomes Eclectic and scratched and loop-pedaled a mindblowing live, real time version of his most recent release, The Sound of the Police. It was awesome to hear and watch him create such a seamless, gorgeous mix with a single turntable and a loop pedal. I’ve seen him do that kind of set a number of times now, and it’s never not mindblowing.

Most recently, I had the great pleasure and honor of introducing Cut Chemist at his most recent show at the House of Blues for the second night of his Tunnel Vision tour. Chemist curated a truly phenomenal line-up of artists that made me believe for the first time in years that in fact, HIP HOP IS NOT DEAD.

With a stellar line-up that included OG Def Jux MC Mr. Lif, psychedelic space cadet turntable phenom and MC Edan featuring newcomer Paten Locke, Blackbird, Myka9, drummer Deantoni Parks, visual artist Tom Fitzgerald, and a surprise visit from Chali Tuna (which resulted in a short but sweet de facto Jurassic 5 reunion/set.)

The Edan/Paten Locke collaboration in particular is a truly inspired one. The two of them have a chemical energy that is super kinetic and leaves you with the sense that one or both of their heads might explode. However, it is all finely tuned controlled chaos and it’s mesmerizing. From wicked scratches, to weird Bob Dylan wigs, kazoo playing, acoustic guitars, punkish early Beastie Boy rap flows and Velvet Underground samples…it was all over the place in a way that felt like aural grafitti. Super impressive and wildly entertaining.

As mentioned earlier, I’ve seen Chemist perform a number of times, and the tricky thing about seeing an artist a number of times is…you kind of learn “their shtick.” Looking at the stage set-up with what looked like 4 turntables, 4 cdjs, a laptop, mixer, effects, etc, etc, and him starting the show with a couple of remixes and crowd favorites off his “The Audience is Listening” album, (please don’t tell him or anyone else, but) I was a little underwhelmed. I mean, I wasn’t mad, especially given how the rest of the show and the concept was a great success and how surprised and blown away I was by the Edan & Paten Locke performance, I was prepared to be pleasantly entertained, but not necessarily be taken anywhere new by The Chemist….WRONG!

A couple of tracks into the set, Chemist began improvising and playing in a way that had my bud, production assistant, (and NEW KCRW DJ!) Travis Holcombe and I texting and tweeting each other perpetual OMGs!!! And when Chemist jumped down off the stage to do The Sound of the Police on a tiny set-up on the side, watching him place and replace little tape marked 7″s and pitching them up and down and working the loop pedal, and making it sound so insanely flawless and easy, Travis and I determined that Cut Chemist had officially become the world’s greatest turntablist. And furthermore, that the only reasonable explanation either one of us could come up with for HOW he was doing what he was doing was  “magic.”

Chemist proceeded to tease us with a couple of new sounds, like a more electro-industrial tinged jam and the heavy beat-banger “Outro” before closing it out and bringing all his collaborators (and obviously really good friends) up to the stage. It was an inspired and inspiring night of music that affirmed that hip hop is still very much a living, breathing, spitting, funny, anarchic thing.

Do yourself a favor and get to the Music Box on November 2nd when Cut Chemist will be performing with Merrill Garbus (a.k.a. Tune-Yards.) You’ll see.

— Mario Cotto

Editor’s Note: See more photos from the evening on KCRW’s Flickr page