Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Big Audio Dynamite and Schoolly D live 1986
by Simon Reynolds
HIP HOP is about a strange kind of unity: it's a community that responds to oppression not with a dream of solidarity and equality, but with a sociopathic individualism. A brotherhood bound in ruthless competition with each other. At a hip hop event there's a resonance between audience and performer that comes because the star lives out the fan's megalomaniac fantasies in a theatre of cruelty and triumph.
But tonight Schoolly D faced a different community, a hostile and ignorant audience. That faceless plain of rock fandom, shorthaired hippies, Mick Jones lookalikes nostalgic for the golden days of 1978. Many were wearing trainers, but not for the right reasons. There was no resonance. There was shit sound, far too little volume, and in truth Schoolly D didn't seem to be trying too hard either. The audience were indifferent, desultory even in their throwing of glasses on stage.
A pity, because the record is a quantum leap for hip hop. In the search for higher and harder hits, some have tried to mix hip hop with other substances, like rock or Go Go. Schoolly has opted for a purer, more vicious distillation of the drug. 'P.S.K.' is an avalanche. 'Put Your Filas On' shows D.J. Code Money to be a virtuoso, a poet of scratch.
But Schoolly let the side down badly, failing to tyrannise the audience. He bobbed from one end of the stage to the other, flicking his wrists in little gestures of dismissal, stopping now and then to adopt the new B-Boy posture: arms folded across the chest, supercilious gaze of disdain. Who's afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? Nobody here tonight.
I have not been impressed by Big Audio Dynamite hitherto: hip hop and punk united in relations of mutual enfeeblement, I thought. The very idea seemed a bit naff: four outlaw myths for the price of one — the rocker, the B-Boy, the rasta, the cowboy — all merged into a single cartoon swagger. Pile it all on. Basically, though, this is a rock'n'roll band, having as much to do with hip hop as ZZ Top. All that Jones has acquired from hip hop is the idea of theft — he'll rip off anything from 'Summertime Blues' to The Big Country theme to Raw Silk's 'Do It To The Music' to Ennio Morricone.
You know it's not in any sense dynamic rock or dance music, but somehow it works, as a fierce sloppiness, a flurry that sweeps you along in its blur if you're prepared to let it have its way with you. Strummer didn't make an appearance, which is what everyone wanted (even me), but this is The Clash at heart, with some technology and a new cosiness and songs drawn out for seven minutes. But the sentimentality (The Clash's great strength) is well to the fore. Mick Jones, with his pissed grin and slicked back hair and drainpipe physique, is a reactionary figure, but hard to dislike. And songs like 'V Thirteen', with their crestfallen melodies and cissy vocals, are really rather pretty in a mopey sort of way. But then I always thought 'E=MC2' sounded like China Crisis.