The Round of 64 for Sound of the City’s own version of March Madness—in which you, the Sound of the City voting public, help determine the quintessential New York musician—finishes up this week, with the Round of 32 scheduled to kick off Monday. (The schedule and results so far are here; the full, updated bracket is here.) Now we continue with the Downtown region, where Larry Levan takes on the trio of Mike D, MCA, and Ad Rock. Check out the arguments in favor of each below, and vote at Facebook for your favorite.
THE BEASTIE BOYS
Listening to the Beastie Boys is like hearing a rapped tourist guide to New York City spots hip and hidden. Mike D, MCA, and Ad Rock’s raps are packed with oh-so-specific references, whether exact addresses (“59 Chrystie Street”), gastronomic recommendations for the (now-defunct) Blimpies in Brooklyn Heights, or even their lovable Paul’s Boutique album-cover ruse on the Lower East Side. Throw in a rap style that was swagged-out decades before rappers started using the term and a one-time association with street-photography legend Ricky Powell, and you’ve got a group that’s the downtown partying and rapping embodiment of the city.
In the late ’70s, Paradise Garage was to progressive dance culture and the queer underground what Studio 54 was to the rich and overexposed, and Larry Levan was the man steering the wheel. Levan’s reign was a coming of age for the city’s nightlife; as the disco craze waned, the DJ thought ahead, incorporating electronic synths, samplers, and drums into his sets. It was ahead of its time and, eventually, one of his friends, Frankie Knuckles, would be credited with using similar techniques to create some of the earliest dubbed “house” music. Chart-ranked remixes, collaborations, and famous cohorts aside, Levan was a romantic embodiment of downtown Manhattan. Amid the muck of a nightlife revolution—one that spanned both the glorious boom of drag houses and the heartbreaking entrance of drug addiction, AIDS, and resulting bankruptcy—he purveyed disco and house to the people as a means of catharsis. Let’s go ahead and argue that his extended sets mirrored what it’s like to live in this city at all: He would chug on, blurring night into day and back into night again, and no one cared as long as they knew were part of something important.