The largest party of this year's SXSW included eight world-renowned DJ's, one legendary hip-hop group, a rap pioneer, and more than 10,000 screaming fans who took over a entire city block of Austin's Warehouse District Saturday night. Fueled by Red Bull and love of the turntables, both the artists and crowd experienced a magical evening that stopped traffic and sent the audience into hip-hop heaven.
We arrived in time to hear the vinyl scratching and acrobatic beat juggling of three time world champion DJ Qbert. His versatile mixing had everyone swaying to the beat, including the kids from the BBOY CITY break dancing crew who were positioned on a platform just left of the stage.
The next guest was none other than the master turntablist DJ Jazzy Jeff, who injected a bit of Philadelphia swagger into the mix. The former Fresh Prince of Bel Air star blessed us with everything from Biz Markie's "Just a Friend" to fellow DJ/producer Mark Ronson's "Ooh Wee."
Taking a break from the DJ action, Red Bull treated us to the sounds of the one and only De La Soul. The Long Island natives took us back to the days before digital downloads and iPods, hitting upon several hits from their nearly 25 year career.
The headliner Z-Trip took his turn onstage, and with the capitol building in the near distance, he began with the de facto state anthem "Deep In the Heart of Texas." He quickly flipped the script to display his mastery of the art of mash-ups. He took us down memory lane and paid tribute to recently deceased West Coast rapper Nate Dogg, shuffling through several of Nate's most beloved hooks and contributions to the G-Funk era.
A special guest appearance from hip-hop trailblazer LL Cool J provided a crowd-pleasing twist that only an event such as SXSW can deliver. Mr. "Ladies Love" has recently been concentrating on his movies and TV shows and has not performed musically in years, but showed everyone in attendance that he has not lost a single ounce of his legendary skills.
With Z-Trip on the wheels of steel, he pounced to the stage with his hit "Go Cut Creator Go," followed by a fierce rendition of "Mama Said Knock You Out." The highlight of the night was presented by mashing up LL's smooth "I Need Love" with Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama." LL and Z then thanked the crowd, took a bow, and rode off into the starry Texas night.
Just don't call it a comeback...
Personal Bias: I used to DJ small weddings with my laptop, so I'm somewhat of an expert on the craft.
The Crowd: Every 18- to 25-year-old at SXSW.
Overheard In the Crowd: "I'm just here to have a good time. These guys inspired me to become the artist I am today." - Young Guru, Jay-Z's DJ backstage
Random Notebook Dump: I really hope Lolita, the smokin' hot Latina whose photo I took with LL, calls me.
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