OBIE Award-winning theater artist Danny Hoch takes on the issue of gentrification with a vivid cast of characters from his Brooklyn neighborhood in his latest show Taking Over. For his Guest DJ set, he also digs into his roots for inspiration, including a track he considers the “first ingredient in hip hop,” a song that creates the sound and the stress of New York City and the soundtrack to his early public performances -- a mine/magic act for tourists. Taking Over is at the Kirk Douglas Theater until Feb 22.
For More: Center Theater Group
1. Afrika Bambaataa & The Soul Sonic Force - Planet Rock
2. Ninjaman - My Weapon
3. Run DMC - Here We Go (Live at the Funhouse)
4. Chab Brahim - Ech Hale Nabghik
5. Ray Barretto - Indestructible
GT- Yo, this is Garth Trinidad from KCRW and I am here with my man, actor and playwright Danny Hoch. He’ll be talking about songs that have inspired him as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. Danny, you’re back in Los Angeles…
DH- It’s good to be here.
Gt- Thanks for coming. You brought some music. What did you bring for us today?
Dh- I started with Planet Rock. This is an old inspiration for me in many ways. A lot of people don’t know this but I actually used to B-boy on the street. I was a mime and a magician back in the very early 80’s. I would go out by myself. I bring this song and I would do my little mime/magic act on the street for tourists or whoever. And this was the song.
But for me it creates all this imagination in it because even though it’s like mad technical and he’s working on this sound machine – I don’t even know what it is -- he creates breaks even though he’s not spinning a record. And really to me, what he’s doing is sort of breaking down Hip-Hop and sort of distilling it with the first technology in Hip-Hop. This is the father really, Africa Baambaata. And in each one of these breaks, if you listen to it, you can create your own reality in them. So for the kid growing up in urban New York City. or even wherever you are growing up, it really sort of sparks your imagination to go where ever you want to go.
Song: Africa Baambaata & Soulsonic Force - Planet Rock
Gt- Alright, next up man you brought us a joint from Ninja Man called “Mr. Weapon.” Tell us about that one.
Dh- For me I think, just as an artist, it was an inspiration as a solo performer because the guy essentially is a character who goes into a bunch of characters. And you know his weapon is Dancehall chat and mine is solo theatre.
But I was inspired by this song because he decided not to really flex his skills as a ragga dancehall star, but really slow down and really just be this character in the song. But yet what he’s really talking about in the song is MY weapon. He’s talking about guns and this and that, but essentially it’s a metaphor for him as the performer, as the weapon. And to me as a performer -- somebody who is already dealing in solo performance or starting getting into it -- I just found that really inspiring. Because I thought whoa, we all are our own weapon if you think about it. Forget about all of the gun battles that were going on in the mid-80’s which this is based off. For me he transcended it in this song.
Song: Ninja Man -- My Weapon
Gt- KCRW’s Guest DJ Project -- Danny Hoch is in the house talking about some music.
Run DMC the live version At the Funhouse/Here We Go?
Dh- The live version. I actually think in this song Jam Master Jay -- who is a legend, may he rest in peace -- just has two turntables and that is all that he is playing with here. And there’s no high production value and there’s no rhythm section and there’s no sample that’s like cranking in and there’s no chorus-- it’s just the two turntables making this beat. And to me, it is the ultimate essence, like if you’re cooking something this is the first ingredient. And if Hip-Hop is a stew this is the first ingredient. And it’s just so raw for me in that way, and the way that both Run and DMC are just going back and forth. It literally is a freestyle rap. They weren’t like ‘let’s make this up about a certain theme or whatever.’ Run even says, I just made the mmmm up last night and I believe that he did. That’s just the way for me that Hip-Hop was at the beginning, in it’s early days, in New York City. And when I listen to this song it always reminds me so I don’t forget. And I think so we all don’t forget.
Song: Run DMC – Here We Go
Gt- Cheb Brahim. I’m not even going to attempt to pronounce this song even though I think that I know it.
Dh- (laughs) Alright, this song is pronounced Ech Hale Nabghik and the artist is Cheb Brahim and he’s not somebody that I was familiar with, but I was already into Algerian Rai music and, for me, always having been inspired and looking at the world through the lens of Hip-Hop, to me Algerian Rai was the North African version of Hip-Hop. It wasn’t North African Hip-Hop, but essentially what it did was it took modern technology and it took these rebellious verses that talked about all the messed up stuff that was going on in society and flipped it using these traditional rhythms and traditional beats. And that’s kind of what Algerian Rai is. And I was listening to a bunch of it, I was into some Cheb Khaled and Rachid Taha. Then there’s a poet friend of mine, a Palestinian sister in New York, she sent me this and I got it and I was going on a plane somewhere and I put it in my Diskman, because we were rocking Diskmans back then, and this song came on and it blew my mind. I can’t even tell you, it’s so almost retro but yet breaking barriers. I didn’t even know what the guy was saying because I don’t speak Arabic but this song inspired me. I think that I listened to it like everyday for the next year.
Song: Cheb Brahim - Ech Hale Nabghik
Gt- Man, you brought an incredible joint from
Ray Barretto – “Indestructible.” Can you talk about this one real quick?
Dh- First of all, Ray Barretto is a genius. Hands down this guy is a genius and not just because he’s an amazing conga player, but as a composer and as a musical thinker. This guy broke so many barriers between jazz and cumbia and wawanco. In this song he is messing with, you know, what is sort of a classic wawanco, you know, Afro-Cuban rhythm via Puerto Rico, but what he does in his instruments in this song is he essentially creates the sound and the stress of New York City. Like, you listen to the song and you hear the trains and you hear the buses and you hear the street corners and you hear people getting pushed and people getting robbed and people stepping on each other’s feet. And what the sonero is singing about in the song if you understand the Spanish is essentially -- if you feel pain, if you feel pressured, don't worry about it, because you are indestructible at the end of the day. And nothing can touch you. And it's kind of like an anthem for someone who is walking through this crazy bustling city and all kinds of stuff is falling on you and happening to you during the day, and the subway doors are closing on your face, but you are indestructible because you have the rhythm.
Song: Ray Barretto "Indestructible"
Garth Trinidad: Danny Hoch, ladies and gentlemen. KCRW's Guest DJ Project. Thank you so much for joining us man, I appreciate that.
[PLAYLIST GOES HERE]