This Thursday, Cut Chemist is bringing his self-curated show Tunnel Vision to the Mezzanine in San Francisco (full details below the flyer). Tonight will be the second show in the Tunnel Vision tour at the House Of Blues in Hollywood. The show not only features turntablist pioneer and legend Cut Chemist alongside Boston hip-hop heroes Edan & Mr. Lif, but also visuals from none other than inventive filmmaker Tom Fitzgerald. This will be an awesome show that is a must-see for any hip-hop listener or DJ who thinks music can only be made on a computer.
I used the words earlier, but I think it is necessary to again describe Cut Chemist for what he is – a pioneer and a legend. He was one of the front-runners of the turntablist movement in the ’90s, gaining popularity through Los Angeles based rap group Unity Committee. Soon the group became Jurassic 5 with Rebels of Rhythm. Cut Chemist played a huge part in the success of the group, all the while releasing and experimenting solo material and close collaborations with other important figures such as DJ Shadow. Eventually, he left Jurassic 5 and released a number of solo albums and remixes. He is continuing his legacy with this tour. It’s always a treat to see someone live who has influenced so much of modern music, whether we realize it or not, and I strongly recommend this show if not only for the music, but also for the education. You’ll get a nice taste of the sound that started hip-hop on its ride to popularity as well as what the genre SHOULD be. (Cut Chemist’s performance will be featuring: Hymnal, Blackbird, Myka9, and the “Inhuman Drum Machine” Deantoni Parks).
First off, what are you most excited for in the Tunnel Vision Tour? Any collaborations happening with other artists on the tour? The promo video was awesome.
I’m excited to do a show with Edan again. I first saw him perform in LA about 10 years ago. It was so good that I had him open up for Jurassic 5 soon after that in Rhode Island. We have always talked about doing a tour together and bringing Mr Lif on board. Lif and Edan have a long career of collaborations and we have also been collaborating amongst the three of us for a few years now. We all share a similar approach to performance and quite frankly it feels good to work with rappers again in this capacity. It’s something I haven’t done since Jurassic 5. They will be guest appearing on my set and they will be guest appearing in each other’s set.
It seems like Tom Fitzgerald’s style of filmmaking and your turntablism go really well together. Have you been working closely with him for the visuals?
I started working with Tom in 2005. He is a film and music collector. He collects footage like I collect music. Since the first show, he has tapped into the exact mood I’m trying to convey musically with visuals.
On your website it says you curated the tour. What made you choose the artists you did?
It’s answered in number one. Also I feel that this is the group of people that add a punk edge to hip-hop music and performance and that is something all of us share. Tunnel Vision is a statement that says this is the way it needs to be done, step aside….
You recently went on a European Tour. How do you think this will compare to the West Coast? Do you feel and play differently on home turf than on the road?
Yes. On the road, I perform my own music, but also play other people’s records as well. At home, I try to do something exclusive. I curated Brainfreeze in LA back in 2000. Back then, I remember wanting to do something special for home. I still feel that way.
You always look like you’re having a good time on the tables. What has been your favorite show?
It just happened in London when I did my Sound Of The Police set live at Jazz Cafe. Sound Of The Police is my one-turntable, loop pedal, all-vinyl, African-inspired music performance. Great audience. They understood everything that I was doing, appreciating the music and how it was being delivered. That’s by far the hardest performance I’ve ever done on my own. I’ll be performing a piece of it at the Tunnel Vision show as well.
Anything else new in the works? Where is your sound going?
I’m putting out a single. It’s more on the rock side of things. It’s a song that was actually recorded a few years ago. It’s just getting out now. It’s called “Outro (Revisited)” featuring a local LA emcee named Blackbird. We will be doing the song in San Francisco. The album is currently being finished.
With the rise of online music distribution and laptop DJing, it seems like digging for records has become an underappreciated art, especially by the younger generations. What are your thoughts? Is digging still widely practiced?
Not as much, but you can still notice a difference between those that don’t and those that do. The musicology approach is there with a record specialist. I guess I notice the respect of the music more from a vinyl collector than I do from one that just recognizes the songs as “files.” It’s very flat and lifeless as oppose to something tangible like a vinyl record with cover art that you will see age over the years.
On that note, what are your thoughts on controllerism? Feels like there’s some beef between turntablists and the laptop DJ.
Turntablists are turning the crowd on with they’re skill. Laptop DJs are turning crowds on with their selections. There is an art to what some laptop DJs do. I have seen a lot make a crowd go crazy at the push of a button. It’s pretty incredible because the same crowd is just as receptive to turntablism. There is definitely room for both on the same stage.
Any final words for the fans?
Yeah. Come to this show if you want to see one of the best live rap acts you will ever see in your life, Edan and Paten Locke featuring Mr. Lif. I’ve seen a lot of performances in all my years and this one is truly one of the best. Also come hear me debut some of the new material.
Edan & Mr. Lif are both staples in the East Coast hip-hop scene. They both have unique perspectives on hip-hop, and this is readily apparent especially in Edan’s eccentric production and Mr. Lif’s soulful rhymes. The two have worked together since Edan’s first album, where Mr. Lif spits heavy rhymes on ‘Rapperfection’. These two embody, like Cut Chemist, what hip-hop was at its creative peak and what it should be today – creative lyrics about real issues and inventive beats to complement them.
It seems like in this day and age, many hip-hop artists have forgotten what rap really stands for – rhyme and poetry. These artists never forgot this, and the show is a breath of fresh air in a world so negatively impacted by mainstream “rap music”. Check it out!