Thanks to Jimmy Fallon, the Roots' Questlove is the next notable in line for honorary local status. In case you don't know, the Giddy One's late-night talk show occasionally records here. When it does, hip-hop's most illustrious drummer steps out, gets legit in the real Orlando and comes downtown to spin for us. Fallon's ride at Universal (Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon) opened last week, so he brought the show down to tape again. That means the iconic pulse behind the Roots did a two-night stand to properly celebrate the 23rd anniversary of Phat-N-Jazzy, one of the truest hip-hop traditions to ever spring from the city's underground
QUESTLOVE AND DJ BMF, THE SOCIAL, APRIL 4-5
For the occasion, Questlove shared the bill with Phat-N-Jazzy cornerstone DJ BMF. But because BMF is a career mixer, the question of how Questlove would stack up is inevitable. Would he be just another celebrity pretender or does he have real table skills?
Turns out, Questlove is not Paris Hilton or Peter Hook. In selection, sequence and flow, it was the mix of a bona fide DJ. After quickly establishing his technique, he went on to demonstrate the taste, spectrum and authenticity of an aficionado. Between Questlove's mien and the general Phat-N-Jazzy aura, this was an up-close affair for real music heads, not a celebrity gawk.
As for BMF, the turntable Don of Orlando hip-hop dropped a golden-age set that was both classic and deep, as befits the man who's most shaped the Phat-N-Jazzy sound and vibe. Tribe, Nas, Common, Erykah Badu, Digable – yep, all in there. But so were some funk and R&B classics, too. And this time, it was a special VJ set so the sights of the times were also in the house to make things thoroughly immersive.
These semi-regular DJ stands by Questlove have been a nice shot in the city's music vein. Even better, they're shaping up to be a pretty great tradition.
CLIPPING, THE SOCIAL, APRIL 3
Word is getting out about avant-garde hip-hop trio Clipping. Shit, your mom might've even heard about them since MC Daveed Diggs is an original cast member of Hamilton. But no vault in profile could make what they do mainstream. And their high-concept ambition has recently crystallized into a total coup.
Their Orlando stop was a particularly special engagement, one of only two breakaway full headlining performances they're doing while on a touring run with the Flaming Lips. So, while the Lips were playing out at House of Blues that very night, Florida product SWIMM took over warm-up duty instead and Clipping came downtown to top the marquee.
All music being made today is technically contemporary. But little of it is actually modern. The more entrenched and embedded the institutions of popular music get, the more difficult true originality becomes. Clipping, however, are so on the edge of now that they feel like near-future heralds.
Their esoteric music can be a black hole of concept and thought. Despite all the brainy DNA, though, their groundbreaking rap-noise-industrial blend comes together live like a missile with a master plan, landing somewhere between the visceral punch of Death Grips and the clarity of Shabazz Palaces. Their oblique themes can cramp the mind if you really dig into it, but the music can also bang and thrill.
Most importantly, what this performance showed was an absolutely distilled aesthetic, something that wasn't so guaranteed with their early material. Everything about them – their thoughts, their presentation – is ripening right now. Clipping have finally become a convergence of vision, innovation and execution. More than a show, this was a display of new masters just hitting their stride, and this crowd knew it.
It's hard to imagine precisely how Clipping's set would've translated in an opening spot in a big room before another band's crowd, but it wouldn't be like this. And that would've been a shame, because what they delivered was an up-close and riveting missive from the frontier.
TLU will be on break next week. But be sure to check out the TLU showcase at FMF (floridamusicfestival.com), this year with special headliner Sales (April 20, The Social).