This past Thursday night at Club Metronome displayed exactly what is wrong with Burlington’s hip-hop and deejay scene. Ming and FS, urban rhythm aficionados, headlined and schooled Burlington’s own hip hop outfit The Loyalists.
The Loyalists played a set clocking in around 45 minutes. The three groupmembers all started on turntables, which would prove to be the highlight of their set. After a few beats, one of the Loyalists picked up the microphone and started rhyming. His lyrics fringed on story-telling and consciousness but still showed the struggle of proving their hip-hop lifestyle, which plagues most Burlington hip-hop acts. One chorus echoed “One step, two step closer to the grave.”
I suppose this is true for anyone living in the usual constraints of time and space, but The Loyalists used it as a crutch for hip-hop credibility rather than a poignant observation on life. The Loyalists decided to play it safe with consistently common beats and lyrics that could be found on almost any contemporary hip-hop album.
After the lackluster performance by The Loyalists the uniqueness of Ming and FS immediately shined through in their rhythm manipulation, surveying and flipping styles such as break-beats, drum and bass, and dancehall in a single breath. All of which were sprinkled with deep delayed scratching and rough hip-hop bass lines and flows. The only soft spot in the show came when they decided to do hip-hop remixes, an all too often kiss of death for the originality of many DJs.
Ming and FS flirted with the line of freshness by laying Jay-Z’s vocals from “Brush Your Shoulders Off’ on top of the “Fish n’ Grits” beat by Outkast, which soon switched into a dancehall beat. Other remixes include flows from The Beastie Boys’ hit “Sure Shot” mixed over beats that went toe-to-toe with the level of raucousness the lyrics deserve, rather than the jazzy, flute smothered beat found in the original.
Ming and FS truly showed their talent when Ming picked up a guitar and FS got on bass. A beat was left playing on the tables and they intricately matched up rhythm changes with live instrumentation, highlighted by the emcee Napoleon Solo, who appeared from backstage. The emcee from The Loyalists wishes he had a third of the talent portrayed by Napoleon Solo.
Napoleon spoke largely about politics and modern day anti-government paranoia in lieu of current events. He also portrayed his talent in flowing over the difficulty fast rhythms of drum and bass, coming with a harder edge and more skill than LTJ Bukem and MC Conrad. During this collaboration, FS beat-boxed crunchy beats even prepared for the distorted, heavy metal curve-ball dealt by Ming.
Ming and FS got back on turntables and spun dark drum and bass, working up to the finale mix of Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name of.” Ming and FS’s turntable skills and abilities on live instruments mark them as some of the best music producers and performers around.
Unfortunately, the crowd was not responsive to the show before them. This was noticed by Ming as he informed us that Texas was a better crowd than Burlington: proof that Burlington isn’t ready for the progressive, urban nature of Ming and FS and explaining why groups like The Loyalists are popular in this neck of the woods.