There was graffiti on film, break dancing, hip-hop music and turntable scratching – hence “The Four Elements of Hip-Hop” at The State Theatre on March 3. Brought together by Portland’s DJ Jon, the acts ranged from New Hampshire MCs Adeem and Shalem to two-time Disco Mixing Club (DMC) World Champion DJ Q-Bert of San Francisco.
An array of tag-team turntablists and free-styling MCs rocked the old theater, slinging hard-hitting beats and rhymes into the head-bopping, hand-waving crowd.
Local favorites such as DJ Rew and the group Know Complex were popular acts, but a highlight of the night was a show by Boston’s The Floorlords, an acclaimed 15-member break dance crew. Their exuberant and acrobatic performance was a fresh reminder of hip-hops roots in 1980s urban dance culture. Ranging in ages and sizes, the men and women of The Floorlords spun, jumped, kicked and flipped with ease, as if their skeletons were made of rubber, not bone. The youngest members of the troupe, two school-age boys, were not only cute to watch, but highly flexible as well.
The hip-hop MCs Obscure Disorder from Montreal brought along DJ A-Trak. A-Trak, also a DMC World Champion, is a young talent who blew the audience away with his skilled scratching solos.
Still, not even young A-Trak’s chilling performance could compare to the hushed awe that came over the crowd as Q-Bert stepped onto the stage. Dressed casually in a sideways newsboy hat, the San Francisco DJs humble demeanor showed Q-Bert is anything but an anger-ridden, egomaniac hip-hop star. “I’m just representing scratching,” he told the audience.
Q-Bert’s set, although less than 20 minutes, was stunning to watch. His fingers on one hand flicked against a vinyl record while his other hand worked his mixer controls at breakneck speed, resulting in a sound collage of beats, samples, and flares.
Proving he is truly an artist, Q-Bert impressed the audience even further by scratching without a mixer, and just using the dexterity of his fingers, palms and wrists to make music out of a vinyl disc scraping against a needle.