Don’t call yourself a hip hop head if you missed out on this event. Grandmaster Flash was here in Kuala Lumpur at Sultan Lounge and we saw a total of, what, less than 5 actual hip hoppers there. Admittedly this wasn’t anyone’s fault, there was barely any hype to the Grandmaster’s arrival here. Like mythical kung fu archetypes, it was almost like he came out of nowhere, kicked some *ss, and left just like that – with only a few truly appreciative of his brief presence.
Images Sultan Lounge + Alif Omar Mahfix
Corny analogy aside, the night was surreal to those with an appreciation for music history. Sure Malaysia has seen music legends performing here, but never one from the hip hop genre. Imagine what it was like for hardcore fans of the genre.
As the resident DJ played and the crowd massed, the build-up was equal to our excitement. The rumours of Flash tinkering with the sound system backstage due to his dissatisfaction with the decibel level of the speakers didn’t help to contain our anticipation – anything less than an epic night would be a disappointment. And yes, the night delivered.
Despite the generation Flash came from, he didn’t purely spin stone age hip hop. His playlist was a non-linear hip hop history that jumped around from his own crew’s (Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five) ‘The Message’, House of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’, Tupac’s ‘California Love’, hits by the late r’n’b royalty Aaliyah to Jay-Z’s NY ode. What really got the crowd wild out though, well the crowd we hung out with at least, was when Flash dropped Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s ‘Shimmy Shimmy Ya’, marking that the only time an ODB track has ever been played at a local club night.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t all urban music. Flash channelled his inner Twilight Actiongirl and spun Eurythmics’ ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)’ among other indie-friendly 80s tunes. This might sound blasphemous to purists, but take solace in knowing that Flash kept his non-hip hop tunes era-relevant. Has-been hip hop DJs would have traded hip hop for bros-friendly wobblecore in an attempt to stay fresh, refreshingly enough Flash wasn’t having any of that.
We weren’t sure how many peeps there had actual knowledge of Flash, but we breathed a sigh of relief when there was considerable enthusiasm when he got behind the decks. While getting sloshed was probably still the main priority of the crowd of tourists, expats and old dudes, it was nice to see that they still acknowledged the presence of a legend.
Even when the crowd subsided (in numbers and excitement), Flash was the very definition of a master of ceremony – for great DJs are their own MCs – when he got more people to get on the dancefloor. Unfortunately the response and energy weren’t sufficient enough, there was visible frustration on his expression. Maybe it was disappointment or maybe it was just his style, but Flash left the decks without a proper goodbye.
Nevertheless, fleeting as it was, Grandmaster Flash spinning in KL was something to remember by. We just wish the proper crowd for such an event had more exposure to it.
The Original Series – Grandmaster Flash was on 23 September at Sultan Lounge, Kuala Lumpur. Never heard of Grandmaster Flash? Google and get yourself edumacated, son.