Tuesday, April 5
Better than: Bowling.
In the past few months, I’ve read a handful of articles and reviews suggesting that watching a DJ is boring. In one sense this is true, as watching the moves a DJ is making is almost always secondary to dancing to the records that DJ is spinning; watching the DJ generally happens only if the music is lacking. On the other hand, the last half-century is filled with DJs whose showmanship topped anything happening on the dancefloor before them. Even if he doesn’t use a turntable, Araabmuzik is one of those DJs.
When the 21-year-old producer from Providence took the stage at Brooklyn Bowl last night, the hypeman for the evening, Diplomat Records rapper and A&R man Duke Da God, introduced him as “the greatest show on Earth.” Hyperbole aside, this description accurately captured the way the small crowd that had gathered in front of the stage would be mesmerized by Araab’s set. Very few people danced. (In fact, the dancing had more or less ended a few hours eariler, after London dubstep artist Zuzuka Ponderosa and her baile funk by way of Miami bass and soca had left the stage.) Instead, the audience watched and nodded, trying to figure out how in the world an object that, from the crowd’s vantage point, looked to be nothing more than a square piece of plastic that was being repeatedly hit was able to conjure such an onslaught of sound.
Araabmuzik takes a piece of music (maybe a guitar lick from the ’80s, maybe a drum pattern from a rap song released a couple of years ago) and chops it up beyond recognition just as it becomes identifiable. Then he pitch-shifts the snippet, adding another chaotic element. Vocal samples–DMX’s unmistakable “What!,” the “I’m about cream” off Rick Ross’s “MC Hammer,” or Swizz Beatz’s “Chillin’ in my beamer, listening to ‘Ether'”–become the punctuation that helps us keep track of Araab’s run-on sentences.
Unlike other dance music artists and DJs, Araab never addresses the crowd, never tells people to come on over to the dance floor, never tells people to start waving their hands. One could say that he lets his instrument, the MPC-2500 drum machine, do the talking, but then again, the kid doesn’t let his instrument do much of anything. Araabmuzik harasses the MPC, dominating it, poking it and tapping it and not giving up until a stunning cacophony of drums, synths, and vocal samples has come crashing out.
The set ended with an extended deconstruction of Bangladesh’s “6 Foot 7 Foot” beat. Araabmuzik used his MPC to reduce the already-minimalist beat even further–bassline, drums, Harry Belafonte sample–and construct his own beat from the ground up, sometimes recreating the original almost exactly, other times running laps around it. Even if not many people were dancing, it’s hard to imagine anyone was bored.
Critical Bias: Providence? I’m from there!
Overhead: A few people trying to figure out how to spell the name “Araabmuzik” for tweeting purposes.
Random Notebook Dump: The best descriptions of Araabmuzik’s work might actually be found in the titles of the YouTube videos that originally turned me on to him: “AraabMuzik killin’ the MPC Live in Paris,” “Araabmuzik killin the beat,” “Araabmuzik kills The MPC (Vol. 2),” and so on.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 6, 2011