PIAF - DJ Food, DJ Cheeba & DJ Moneyshot Caught in the Middle of a 3-Way Mix a tribute to Paul's Boutique 18/02/14
DISCLAIMER: I found this show extremely hard to write about, because we're well through the looking glass with it. It's a tribute to a Beastie Boys' album that mostly consists of performing the music sampled in that album by 3 DJs in ways not done in the album itself. Also interview snippets and radio reviews of the work are piped in at various places. It may be a recreation or remix of the album in a live setting by people not remotely involved in producing it, but also it's neither of those things and they play Beatles tracks like its nothing and Itunes didn't have a wild battle with them just to be able to legitimately sell their stuff. This shit is complex. Or maybe I'm just overthinking it and it's all about moving the crowd like any other DJ show would. ARRRGGGHHH. To show you how far through the looking glass I AM with this I've just written a disclaimer that's become an inoperable part of this review. Enjoy :).
First, a brief and somewhat slipshod history lesson: The Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique (1989) was one of the lucky few albums that existed at the zenith of the art of supersampling in hip hop. Better even than Public Enemy's emblematic Bomb Squad production, Paul's Boutique was a rough summary of popular music with a rare black focus made by three jewboys and two white goyim crate-diggers. Within two years though the bizarre casualness with which intellectual property could be repurposed in music was ended when Biz Markie lost a landmark lawsuit over a sampled piece by the barely remembered pop singer-songwriter Gilbert O'Sullivan.
Within years mainstream rap was swarmed by a string of P-Funk rip-offs (read: G-Funk) based on the affordability of sampling one George Clinton song as opposed to the myriad of samples, which include Parliament Funkadelic numbers, on PB. Retroactively, The Beasties (minus deceased leader Adam Yauch a.k.a MCA RIP) and their collaborators The Dust Brothers are still facing a lawsuit from the DC Go-Go band Trouble Funk over whether their music is sampled on Paul's Boutique.
Understandably, DJ Food, DJ Cheeba and DJ Moneyshot put little focus on these controversies in their live mixing tribute to the aforementioned album, Caught in the Middle of a 3-Way Mix. Their aim is to focus on the artform and show why it's legitimate and moving – why it is more than just stealing other peoples' work, as the courts, record companies and rockists want to assert. It is also a stunning tribute to a band that can never present themselves in their true form ever again.
It opened with, obviously, the intro track 'To All The Girls', but with a hint of the scope of the project. Radio reviews of the Beastie Boys' work from the time remarking that they were now regarded (even by black artists) as the real deal – history lesson #2, the Beastie Boys were partly seen as cynical frat-boy Elvises jumping on the black bandwagon before this album was released, showing that they were the most talented and inventive trio around. Over the top are scratches – Food, Cheeba and Moneyshot are traditional vinyl and mixboard DJs with a smooth and aggressive style – plus some excerpts from other Beasties tracks like 'Ch-Ch-Ch-Check It Out' (2004, on For The Five Burroughs) and 'Paul Revere' (1986, on Licence to Ill).
When the show and its style really kick in is with the scratch to start 'Shake Your Rump', in which long-winded play throughs samples like of Funky 4 + 1's 'It's the Joint' permeate the powerful flow of the raps (“Iiiiiii'll rock a house party at the drop of a hat...). This sets the tone for the rest of the show. 'The Sound of Science''s famous Beatles samples give way to the actual 'Sgt. Peppers (Reprise)', while the crowd jams long and hard to Kool and the Gang's 'Jungle Boogie', The Isley Brothers' 'Who's That Lady' and Chic's 'Good Times'. 'Shadrach' dips in and out of the sample actually used on the record and a full run of Sly and The Family Stone's 'Loose Booty'.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to crowd interaction, and these moments moved the audience. Even better were moments of pure comedy, resulting from the originals' wide sampling. DJ Cheeba appeared to anchor a DnB rendition of Eric Weissberg's 'Shuckin' the Corn' (sampled on the skit '5-piece Chicken Dinner'), while raucous excitement unfolded when 'Hello Brooklyn' gave way to its famous 'Folsom Prison Blues' roots and 'Hey Ladies' suddenly became the full chorus of Sweet's 'Ballroom Blitz'.
As it happens, when stripped of all ithe show's intellectual complexity, there is something far richer in what Food, Cheeba and Moneyshot have constructed. Their show manipulates nostalgia and memory to turn their audience from expectation to surprise. Anticipating the Beasties the crowd got the inspiration beneath it. And when that happened all they could do was dance – a pure visceral reaction to illustrate the power and wisdom of an artform that the courts kicked from the mainstream 23 years ago.