Audio Spasmsby Mantedieng Mamabolo / Images by Liam Lynch / 13.04.2012
The line outside the Bassline reaches further than the human eye can see in the dark. It is not even 8pm yet. A lot of early birds are taking no chances about getting into the venue. In every Newtown bar or restaurant hoodies in fresh sneakers are killing time, waiting for the most anticipated hip hop gig of the year to get started. The night Little Brother’s 9th Wonder and Phonte came to Jozi.
Beset by my own entry paranoia, amplified by the sheer volume of hip hop heads that have rocked up for this gig, I left my tall glass of refreshment half way and made my way back to what would be an excruciating hour long wait in the queue. A lot of familiar faces expressed a similar lament about how they had been starved of real hip hop in the city. Phonte and 9th Wonder had arrived on Jozi’s concrete soil and a little wait in the dark outside was no deterrence.
Kabomo entered stage left and got the crowd a little bit warmer with tracks from his debut album All Things Grey. A well received performance from the Benoni-born artist. Kabomo’s set made a decent enough argument as to why he’s stepped up from behind the production desk and in front of the microphone. Alas not everyone at the Bassline was here to take in all the entertainment. Although Kabomo held it down, the crowd was anxious for the main event.
The man born Patrick Denard Douthit came onto stage to the crowd chanting the name that he has made synonymous with smooth and soulful production: 9th Wonder. As soon as his fingers hit the turntables the crowd become electric. He kept the energy at gravity defying levels and when Phonte made his grand entrance almost on the break of the beat 9th was spinning, the crowd went totally, what the kids today call, buck!
The whole show seemed to start again as “Dancing in the Rain”, a Foreign Exchange track, kicked off what would be the most impressive tag team display between MC and DJ ever experienced this side of the M2. The audience bust into spontaneous and erratic dance moves, and not a single head in the crowd could control resist the consistent bopping.
The set was a journey through the years of what both artists have brought to their loyal followers for over a decade. They played a lot of Little Brother tracks, the crew they formed in 1998, along with Thomas Jones (Rapper Big Pooh, whose absence was deeply missed on this tour). 9th Wonder characterized each Foreign Exchange track by starting it with the original sample and bringing the audience into full audio spasms when their bass, rhythm and lyrics dropped.
The entertainment was typified by flawless mixing and transitions between tracks. The crowd was boisterous, some were man-handled in the enthusiasm to get close to the brilliance on stage. Energy wise this was the most excited I’ve seen Jozi since Mos Def came to town.
If there was a downside, it was that the next generation of hip hop heads, those characterized by tight skinnies and neon coloured clothes, were conspicuously absent on a night when true hip hop culture came to town. Anyone who fancies themselves a bedroom emcee, would have benefitted from the intelligent rhymes delivered flawlessly over beats that move. They might have learnt something real.
*All images © Red Bull / Liam Lynch