It seems odd that in a city where people toast Dre Day every year with screen-printed forties, Minneapolis hip-hop heads completely overlook the classics. But it always happens, and so did it when Afrika Bambaataa came to Epic Nightclub on Saturday, March 13, an event that brought out many talented breakdancers from the area. The legendary DJ performed at to a small crowd including many faces familiar to those who frequent old-school hip-hop shows.
The small size of the crowd isn’t surprising in a city where Rhymesayers and Doomtree rule. The friend who accompanied me to the show is a good example of the typical Minneapolis hip-hop fan. She is big into hip-hop, yet knows nothing of the old school. She hadn’t heard of the Zulu Nation. Maybe the younger kids don’t think old school is too cool, or important, which seems odd to me, because the message behind the music is what makes hip-hop such a powerful force. But $15 is a small price to pay to see a living legend at work.
Afrika Bambaataa is a pioneering force behind hip-hop. The DJ is credited for having started the Universal Zulu Nation in South Bronx back in the late seventies. Ex-gang members were organizing events for youths in the community. These events included dance and beats, and welcomed people from all backgrounds to join in.
Though the Zulu Nation has changed, and isn’t supported by current hip-hop, members of the Zulu nation are trying to re-organize, and Bambaataa’s show at Epic is testament to the re-formation. The show was not unlike other local hip-hop events facilitated by groups like Yo! The Movement, or the B Girl Be. Afrika Bambaataa’s show contained three of the core elements of hip-hop culture: MCing, DJing, and breaking.
Had attendees been permitted to spray the too-clean walls of the too-new Epic with aerosol, the event would have been even better. The venue was definitely a drag on the show; it lacks the intimacy and energy of the city’s beloved spots.
But the presence of Afrika Bambaataa was enough to keep the energy up and crowd going until late in the night, when the DJ made his way to the tables. A hype man acknowledged a wedding party that had made the event its home that night, stating it was their dream to have the legendary DJ at their reception. The large space accommodated all attendees, from those having private parties in the upstairs nooks of the club to the lucky breakdancers onstage. Actually, we were all lucky.