Live: AraabMuzik Bridges The Gap Between Old And New At East River Park


Araabmuzik w/Flosstradamus, Teengirl Fantasy, Nick Hook
East River Park
Monday, August 20

Better than: Drinking Red Bull to get through just about anything else.

Watching the Manhattan-by-night sightseeing cruises pass behind East River Park’s Summerstage during last night’s Araabmuzik-headlined show, you had to wonder how the ship’s tour guide was explaining the scene they floated by. Hundreds of teenagers—some atop each other’s shoulders, some whipping bottles of water into the air, one wearing an “MDMA-ZING” neon tank, and far too many smoking cigs (among other things) behind their mothers’ backs—screamed, raved, flailed, and booty-popped to Waka Flocka Flame before collectively bouncing into a moshpit for a remix of Baauer’s “Harlem Shake.” “To your right, you’ll see one of New York City’s many diverse music festivals,” we imagine the tour guide told his voyeurs.

For people of a certain age, fighting through the cognitive dissonance that’s come hand-in-hand with dance floor genre-melding has been harder than for their younger peers. The scene surrounding this particular type of music, where having an active Soundcloud and Twitter page is almost as important as the music itself, likely affects this perception. And last night’s Red Bull Music Academy-sponsored battle of bass—dubstep, rap, trance—was just another example of the recent embrace of the dance-meets-rap melting pot. Flosstradamus took the decks with the now-everywhere sample pulled from Southern rap mixtape kings Trapaholics: The Chicago DJ duo played “Damn Son” while hoards of teenagers screamed back, “Where’d you find this?” A chuckle-worthy insert, considering the Trapaholics are also known for the drop: “You can’t find this on the Internet.” The duo followed this call-and-response with their own “Lana’s Theme,” where the “Baby, now you do” from Lana Del Rey’s “Video Games” whispers in and out of a squeaky, springing trap bass.

But let’s talk about this age thing. It’s important to note the literal divide at this show; Summerstage gave those over 21 the option of standing in a barricaded-in bar area of the bleachers. The wristbanded “grownups” could roam as they pleased, of course, but they mostly stuck to their safe haven, bouncing along on benches and looking on with amusement as the teens gyrated and flailed to mixes where Future yelled “Same Damn Time” over Flosstradamus’s “Total Recall” instrumental and Gucci Mane’s “Trap Shit” was reduced to growls over bass. It was a scene that sometimes caused the older attendees around our patch to laugh uncomfortably and snark at the expense of their wilding-out counterparts. Which is a shame, really: The newer, larger, mass-consuming dance crowds are so often, immediately, and wrongly attributed to the dumbing-down of dance music or the cluelessness of today’s music-consuming masses instead of, you know, their actual age. (My friends rapped Ludacris’ “What’s Your Fantasy” in the barely lit halls of highschool homecoming dances and girls-only sleepovers in 2000, as if we were being brazenly risqué by doing even that; some of yesterday’s crowd literally demonstrated the line “I wanna lick, lick, lick, lick you from your head to your toes” as the sun went down over the East River.)

But does that matter? Maybe they’re a new generation of kids embracing their newness. Maybe they’re making fun of themselves. Maybe these kids are more self-aware than we give them credit for. Most importantly, maybe they’re just having a good time.

The true test of the audience was AraabMuzik, whose live stage shows are all about showmanship yet eschew the over-the-top, behind-the-turntable-bravado other performers embrace. In fact, at a SummerStage event earlier this year in Bed-Stuy’s Von King Park, the legenadry DJ Scratch played a similar concert, though he denounced wannabe DJs while picking up the turntable mid-song and delivered up a slew of classic turntablist tricks in suit. While these are signature moves of old-school DJs, I was left wanting more than throwback rap and calls for real DJs of yesteryear. This is where the expertise and technical prowess of AraabMuzik has bridged the gap between old-school tradition and current trends. Live the Harlem-raised, Dipset-producing wunderkind used throwback jams to his benefit and built whirlwind-fast orchestrations of snares, hi-hats, bass, and screamy drops over hits like Damien Marley’s “Welcome to Jamrock” and his own recent release for Slaughterhouse “See Dead People.” A camera captured his fingers pounding his MPC while a swarm of photographers crowded around him for the best seats in the house. “I was at the dentist yesterday and he played this track,” joked a friend nearby as a drill-shrill dubstep concoction kicked in. Behind the gates next to us, the once-riotous mosh pit had toned their dance moves down a little to stare in awe of the musician, ending the show with the closest scene resembling old-school turntablist culture than I’ve seen in a long while. Take that, naysayers.

Critical bias: I am not mad at trap-rave and recently attempted to investigate it.

Overheard: “Everyone here is, like, 12.” [Over and over and over again.]

Random notebook dump: Was momentarily but seriously concerned for the quickly fading girl in the MDMA-ZING tank. RT this if you’re OK.