The last time New York-based producer/DJ/culture theorist DJ Spooky was in the Northwest (a year ago), he performed a piece with the Seattle Chamber Players, Rebirth Suite, that blended hiphop beats with classical harmonies. This week, DJ Spooky returns to our city to promote a CD that blends hiphop with heavy metal, Drums of Death (Thirsty Ear).
Of course, rap mated with metal long before the "nü-metal" of Limp Bizkit, or Tricky's rock version of Public Enemy's "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos." Indeed, a big part of hiphop's modern period (1983 to 1993) is founded on rock/rap collaborations. And one could go as far as to say that rock was in the house (hiphop, that is) before James Brown's funky drummer.
Def Jam co-founder Rick Rubin produced hardcore rap (T La Rock's "It's Yours") and hardcore rock (the Cult's explosive Sonic Temple). And then there's Run-D.M.C.'s "Rock Box," which was released in 1983 and to this day stands as the best fusion of the forms. In Drums of Death, turntablist Spooky meets Slayer's trash-metal drummer Dave Lombardo. The result is a thunderstorm of music; not an Earth-style thunderstorm, but a spacey, galactic one. These are beats for the heavy citizens of Saturn.
Drums of Death, which features performances by Public Enemy's Chuck D and Living Colour's Vernon Reid with production by Meat Beat Manifesto's Jack Dangers, is impressively ambitious. The project is too big, bold, and determined to be anything but impressive. After Hegel saw Napoleon riding into Jena with his army in 1806, he wrote that he had seen the Weltgeist (world spirit) on horseback; a similar thing can be said of DJ Spooky: When one is watching him cut up records with classical musicians or a rock band, one is watching the Weltgeist behind two turntables.