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Playing Dead

by Ts'eliso Monaheng / 26.11.2012

“As you can see, the venue does not accommodate graffiti!” So said the host Siya at last Friday’s Kool Out Live in which all but one of hip hop’s four fundamental elements were present. It was a line-up that consisted of performances from deejays (Azuhl, Ruthy Pearl, Raiko), emcees (Khulichana, Reason, Youngsta), and b-boys (Immortal Style, Ninja Turtles). There was even a clothing stall thrown in for good measure where Butan merchandise was being sold at ridiculously low prices.

Breakdancing, the most agile and physically-taxing aspect of the culture, was present, in the form of a battle between Immortal Thoughts and Ninja Turtles. The cypher opened up and all lights were cast onto the centre; breaks boomed through the soundsystem courtesy of DJ Azuhl, and the audience’s energy seemed to push the breakers into a trance-like state where their physique, technical ability and charisma played a role in deciding who won the battle. After the prosaic six-step routine, hand-claps, and the de rigueur interactions with onlookers, eyes were transfixed onto every step, it was up to the audience to decide who won. Immortal Thoughts took it.

The emcees’ turn came next, and former Bruinstormaz member Cream wasted no time with bickering. The combination of his flow and on-stage technique left one feeling that he deserves to be rocking more shows. He bounced around, glanced at the audience with a glimmer in his eyes, and assaulted them with his raw cadence. But the combined effort failed to translate into any sustained reaction from the audience. Ill Skillz, now seasoned veterans of the Cape Town hip hop scene, were met with the same half-hearted reaction. It was only when Hemelbesem showed up that a sizeable portion of those in attendance started demonstrating signs of life. Youngsta and Reason’s performances met the same fate as their earlier counterparts; but the latter’s appearance with producer 37mph and DJ ID was a truly impressive affair which, in theory at least, should have gone down well. But alas, hardly moments after he ended his set, more than half of Trinity was chanting “Tswa daar” in unison.

Moments later, flanked by a hype man, Khuli Chana stepped onto the stage. The self-professed ‘Motswakoriginator’ dug up songs from his debut album, and gave a hint of what people could expect from his new project (released on that very day, coincidentally), and even resurrected some Morafe tunes. Everyone gobbled it up in one go.

The highlight, however, came disguised as a battle between Gin-I-Grindith and Kid Clever. What transpired was a one-sided disaster-piece in which Gin-I literally obliterated his opponent with one punchline after the other, intermittently making body gestures which added to the overall flair of the battle. He even left the stage with a memorable quote for all to digest; right at the tail-end of his rupturous sermon, Gin-I Grindith stepped up to Kid Clever, looked at the audience, and with his index finger pointed at his opponent, uttered “If shit had arms.” Everyone was sold!

Overall, it was a good night out. People showed up, and the deejays offered a wide selection of good hip hop. But one was left with the over-arching feeling that most of the people assembled were not really interested in the overall event, just a subset of it. The Khuli Chana cameo. While Khuli managed to get a good reaction, earlier performers gave an equally-good showing, but the audience failed to reciprocate that energy. Which all just begs the question: “If you are going to play dead for most of the night, then why bother showing up in the first place?”

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