The Magnificent DJ Jazzy Jeff
December 4, 2013. I walk into the room and through the shifting haze and lights and voices there runs an electric current, a tingle I recognize immediately: Soular Power. There is creative potency here. Leave it to the magnificent DJ Jazzy Jeff to draw this kind of crowd. People who vibrate with passion, purpose, and pleasure.
Manila-based event production company, Heavy Boogie, brings this hard-hitter to URBN as part of the “Vinyl Destination” tour. Along with special guests, DJ Jazzy Jeff & Skillz will be in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur next. This might be the greatest hip hop run Southeast Asia has ever seen.
DJ Shortkut makes a guest appearance, scratching new shapes into sound with his astounding talent on the turntables. It’s an audiovisual set with video graphics that bend and blend in highlight of his deft maneuvers. We get on the good foot and it curls our toes. “There should be more of this!” says my friend Agee, several times.
A roar. Jazzy Jeff steps to the deck and with the unapologetic dexterity of a seasoned veteran, moves thru genres and eras, weaving a new dream out of old parts. He is a tiger on the turntables and his claws rake us smooth. He takes us from New York to California to Super Nintendo, from Old School to New and everything in between.
I scan the sea of uplifted faces absorbing every song. It’s taking everybody back to some sweet spot. Even though we’re not from the same place—this is truly an international gathering—we share a common bond, a heartbeat. Music that goes the distance brings people together. Heads are all a-bob, and that’s just in the back of the room.
In front of the raised DJ booth, a circle has opened up, and the dancers dropping into the middle are making major statements. These are not the passive dancers, the look-at-my-sexy dancers, or the try-to-fit-in dancers that fill most clubs. These are physical artists who occupy their bodies completely to narrate the music. They are translators. They move the beats and spin the breaks, flipping and dipping and popping and stopping. Locked in, bugged out. The crowd shouts as one kid kicks high into the air, doing an impossible somersault and landing in perfect form with a wild grin.
A master at work, Jazzy Jeff hand-crafts a musical formula that helps us out of our minds and into our bodies. This is the real that we can feel. Forget what we carry around in our heads, here is an embodied experience, waves of sound and light that fill us with energy. It’s the ultimate remedy for the anxiety, headache, and exhaustion written into the track of life.
Indeed, this is a Soular Power outlet; we’re plugged into a primal source, getting a positive charge. And Jazzy Jeff, well he’s a Soular Power technician, facilitating the flow. When you’re in the zone yourself it’s easy to take others for the ride—he opens the line and we all step inside.
There are “stars” in our culture—the famous, ultra-successful elite who’ve made it to the top—and the masses idolize them, despairing. Then there are real human beings who shine at what they do because they understand that there is no top; true success comes from enjoying where you are in the moment while keeping it moving at the same time. These are the ones who dissolve the despair, who work from their heart and spread light just by getting out of bed every day and breathing at regular intervals. They don’t even have to know how bright they are (and this can be an advantage, because once the head gets ahold of it, the heart sometimes breaks). No, these real stars—and they’re few and far between—they haven’t signed up for an identity-trip. If anything, they’re just wondering why everybody else doesn’t follow their hearts and see what happens.
All this time-travel makes the hours stand still. I don’t notice I haven’t stopped dancing until four in the morning. Jazzy Jeff and Shortkut keep going. Finally I take my happy feet home, eternally grateful for the well-marinated dance floor, and the people who are melting across it.