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Mixological Maelstrom: Z-Trip and co. rip the DJ show

By Sam Devine, Photos by Nathan Weylandreviews
Jul 29, 2007 - 12:01 AM

Z-Trip works up a sweat beat juggling, scratching and mixing at the All-Pro Tour on July 24 at the Independent in San Francisco
Lateef the Truthspeaker got the crowd hyped and performed the Quannum classic, "Lady Don't Tek No" off of the Latyrx album with Lyrics Born
Old school San Francisco emcee Rappin' 4-Tay rushed the stage, performing songs to plug his new album
One of the best things about covering slows at the Independent in San Francisco is the Popeye’s Chicken across the street. I woke up craving it on July 24, the same day DJ Z-Trip touched down for the All Pro Tour with Aceyalone, Lateef the Truthspeaker and Gift of Gab. It was an inclusive night of every possible style; you don’t necessarily think of Queen when someone says hip-hop, but Z-Trip played them nonetheless.

Football doesn’t immediately bring to mind turntables, but the All Pro Tour was brought to us by 2K Sports. Posters for their new All-Pro Football 2K8 – which Z-Trip did the soundtrack for – hung on the walls. Plexi-glass protected Playstation 3s were set-up for the kids to try (which made it feel like I was back in high school, wasting time at Target). DJ Tricky T warmed up the crowd, spinning mostly classics, like James Brown, Biz Markie, Eazy E, Notorious B.I.G, interspersed with modern hits like “The Seed,” by the Roots.

Z-Trip crept on stage at 10:35, wearing a blue and orange Upper Playground tee. And he sat down at the drums! He and Tricky T jammed out for a minute on “I Want to Play the Funk,” followed by Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion,” with video footage of Steven Tyler in the background. Z-Trip hopped over to the tables, did some beat juggling, and then faded out the song to a spacey echo. His head bobbed through silence and then he dropped the verse deftly, leaving no doubt that we were at the DJ’s show. Despite the all-star lineup, the night would, above all, be heavily laced with masterful turntablism.

Z-Trip brought out Aceyalone (pronounced A-C-Alone) just a few minutes into the set. They launched right into “Mic Check” off Aceyalone’s 1995 album All Balls Don’t Bounce. As Aceyalone rapped, Z-Trip mixed a kaleidoscope of swirling beats behind him. It’s best described as progressive hip-hop; the beat was changing all the time but there was an overall cohesiveness to everything.

After Aceyalone left the stage, Rappin’ 4-Tay came on. He rapped and plugged his album. “Say: ‘I wanna git fucked up!’” he yelled at the crowd. Now, I was knockin’ em back – don’t get me wrong. But I was really there to hear cunning manipulation on the wheels of steel and the best conscious MC’s the Bay had to offer. At the end of the night, Z-Trip admitted that 4-Tay had just rushed on stage.

After that little shake up, Z-Trip was off freestyle DJing.

He cut through “Been Caught Stealing” by Jane’s Addiction and “Down on the Corner” by Credence Clearwater Revival in quick succession and slammed into, “Walk This Way” by Aerosmith and Run DMC. A girl in a wifebeater was shakin’ it on top of the wall between the seats and the dance floor. Two B-boys up front were bouncin’ their baseball caps.

Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” was mixed over “Good Times” by Chic and into “Don’t You Forget About Me” by Simple Minds, Cee-lo taking his noodle-y vocal solo with the song’s raucous guitar intro.

And on he went.

He dropped Queen’s “Fat Bottom Girls.” And the crowd was loving it. He put a Brooklyn style drum beat behind it (boom, buh-kat / boom, Boom, buh-kat – think “Paul Revere” by the Beastie Boys). ”Aaaaaaare you gonna take me down tonight?” He faded the chorus in and out, letting the crowd sing along.

Lateef the Truthspeaker came out around 11:30, dressed to impress in a white button down over a black t-shirt, jeans and a black Kangol style cap. He came with a blistering opening rap and got the crowd moving even more with call and response shit: “If yah love what yah hearing on the wheels of steal, say, ‘It’s all real!’” Lateef sang “Lady Don’t Tek No,” which was all right. But that song is never quite the same unless Lyrics Born is on the mic.

At 12:01 the ticking clocks and drums of Pink Floyd’s “Time” seemed to fill the room and Gift of Gab (of Blackalicious) took to the stage wearing his signature Kangol cap and glasses. Clocks spun in the background. Gift came out spitting a sixteenth-note freestyle, using four syllables on every beat. They dropped straight into “Rhythm Sticks,” Z-trip sneaking bits of Floyd in and out, scratching and triggering samples. Now more people were dancing on the sidewalls, and I had to hand it to the B-boys up front; they were hanging tough.

The intro to “Deception (Don’t Let Money Change Ya)” came on, and the crowd cheered. “You think you know this song,” said Gift of Gab. “But we’re about to put a little spin on it.” The progressive mixing continued. As Gab started rapping, “This is the story of a kid his name is Cisco…” Z-Trip laid down the beat to “Bigger than Hip Hop.” Instead of singing the chorus of “Deception” the Gaberwocky led the crowd in chanting the Dead Prez chorus: “HIP! HOP! It’s bigger than HIP! HOP!”

“Out in the street they call it murder!” For the second verse, “Welcome to Jamrock” by Damien Marley was subbed in, and for the third, “I Got Five On It” by the Luniz.

“If you’re blessed with a talent…Utilize it to the fullest…” Gab slowed down as he finished the song. “Be true to yourself and…smoke Humbolt.”

The duo ripped through “Chemical Calisthenics” and Z-trip dropped a strange mixture of Pharaoh Monch and “Paradise City”: “Oh won’t you please take me home / Simon says get the fuck up!”

Drummer Pete McNeal sat down at the kit in a Public Enemy t-shirt. “GIVE THE DRUMMER SOME” read the screen in the background. Z-Trip dropped a simple, looped kodo sample and McNeal ripped it. His bass drum work was frenetic and bouncing, and the kit sounded amazing in the large room. They played a mixture of rock and hip hop, hitting Led Zepplin, NWA, Black Sabbath, and even played in 7/8 time while funking out Rush’s “Tom Sawyer.” They played some more Queen, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and “Won’t get fooled again” by the Who.

At 12:37 the show was “over,” but you could tell by Gift of Gab standing near stage right that there will be an encore. He came on and did “Alphabet Aerobics” while Z-trip mixed “In the Hall of the Mountain King” and the drum beat. Everything swelled and Gift of Gab barked into the mic until it was unintelligible.

“Give it up yall for DJ Z-trip!” yelled Gift of Gab after the last beat dropped.


Sam Devine is a contributor to Oh Dang! and will eat your children for a nominal fee.

Nathan Weyland is a freelance photographer.

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