It was a monstrous mash-up of all things hip hop, from old school MCs to new age controllerism. A group of DJs so different yet so similar, the artists of the Rock Boxx Tour led the masses at the Hollywood Palladium through a night of fine music spanning multiple genres. Daddy Kev, Nosaj Thing, De La Soul, and headliner DJ Z-Trip laid down the freshest Friday night concert that LA’s hip hop and electronic scenes have witnessed in a while.
From the first drop to the last beat, the show sampled milestones in turntablism, sampling, rapping, and real disc jockeying. It was like watching hip hop history in the making. The set list honored the genre’s golden age, measured new DJ techniques against old school styles, and showed how each contributed to the glitchy sound of modern instrumental backbeat music.
Daddy Kev started the night off with heavy bass and a smooth style. Dropping tracks from Flying Lotus’s “Massage Situation” to Luniz’s “I Got 5 on It,” the prolific artist hooked the crowd into a dream state. The lights were simple and mood-lit, signifying that this show was going to be about watching DJs actually perform rather than press a play button and “spin.” Daddy Kev worked the stage with a fluidity that oozed with the skill and refinement that can only come from experience.
Cue the infamous sound effect that heralds the beginning of a Nosaj Thing set. LA native Jason Chung steered the crowd from dream state to an entirely different reality nigh fantasy. Truly appreciating his performance meant multi-tasking between heavy dancing and watching him work his equipment. If “1685/Bach” didn’t get you to move, you could watch him produce the music live as if he was playing it on an organ. Nosaj Thing is a virtuoso with a sample pad and proved that young, up and coming artists can hang with the big boys.
Once the dream was over, De La Soul hit the stage and signaled that shit just got real. The Palladium’s vibe was completely remixed and rewound into bright lights, neon, and a flashback to the ’90s. Dropping classics like “Oooh” and “Me, Myself, and I,” the trio took the crowd back to the musical era that defined hip hop. Their energy and enthusiasm for repping their old school style washed over a sea of admiring fans as leagues of hands pumped through the air in respect of a hip hop classic.
The stage was then rearranged to prepare for an hour and a half set from the heavy-hitting headliner. DJ Z-Trip emerged atop a wall of LED screens that was an altar for worshipping the music to come; and oh how glorious the music was. DJs mix polar opposites of music all the time, but few can do it as seamlessly as Z-Trip does. Instead of mixing for mixing’s sake, every sample he used fit perfectly with the next in a resulting mash-up that forced the crowd to go absolutely buck wild. He threw down everything from A Tribe Called Quest to Led Zeppelin, but instead of spinning it like a Top 40 DJ, he scratched and added his twist to the mix to give each second his own distinctive style.
As an added bonus, he dedicated part of his set to spinning vinyls, making the night a true throwback to hip hop’s classics. “I haven’t done this in a minute,” he prefaced, but apparently that makes no difference when you’re a turntable prodigy. After twenty minutes, he announced a second special treat: a surprise guest appearance by LL Cool J. Don’t call it a comeback, but LL Cool J definitely came back into the spotlight with a vengeance on Friday night. Rapping in tandem with Z-Trip’s mixing, LL Cool J recharged the already sweat-drenched audience. He proved that ladies love Cool James and that gentlemen wanted to be him, ending with the infamous “Mama Said Knock You Out.”
Between Daddy Kev, Nosaj Thing, De La Soul, Z-Trip, and LL Cool J, the Rock Boxx Tour was filled with something old, something new, samples borrowed, and something blue.