Telling You What's Good

New York

Hip Hop’s 40th Birthday with DJ Kool Herc

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More reasons New York kills every other city in the US – up there this weekend, and randomly find out that DJ Kool Herc (sometimes billed as Kool DJ Herc) was playing a free (!) party yesterday to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the birth of hip hop culture, which most agree occurred on August 11, 1973, in the party room at the now legendary 1520 Sedgwick Avenue apartment block in the Bronx.  This was his apartment building, and it was his sister Cindy’s back-to-school party, DJed by the 16 year old Clive Campbell, aka DJ Kool Herc. In attendance were none other than Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, and KRS-One, future giants of hip hop, as well as Coke La Rock, Herc’s buddy and hip hop’s very first standalone MC. Nearly everyone in attendance that night was blown away and there is no doubt that it was the defining event in the explosion of hip hop.

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Herc and a modern-day B-boy

Yesterday’s party, at the 5 Pointz graffiti and art center in Long Island City, was a tribute to the legendary DJ and his role as the father of hip hop music, as well as a throwback to exactly the sort of party Herc used to throw in those early days.  DJ Kool Herc created hip hop by extending and looping the breaks of hard funk tracks from the likes of James Brown, the Incredible Bongo Band, and others, creating what he called “the merry-go-round” – several minutes of intense beats that drove the b-boys and b-girls (a term he coined) wild and helped to develop breakdancing. You don’t hear this anymore, but it was clear yesterday that people still love it! Seriously gat-damn funky! Acting as MC was Marley Marl, a legendary producer and MC from the Golden Age of Hip Hop, responsible for massive hits by luminaries such as Eric B & Rakim and especially LL Cool J (he produced “Mama Said Knock You Out!”).

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DJ Kool Herc and Marley Marl

(Incidentally, Herc and his family are immigrants from Jamaica, where he lived until age 12. He’s been quite open about the Jamaican roots of hip hop – what he pioneered in New York as a teenager had been done for 15 years in Jamaica by the sound system DJs – playing special instrumental “versions” of popular songs, “chatting” over the track, and acting as their own hype men – driving dancers wild. Herc did all these things, albeit with James Brown cuts rather than the Paragons versions.)

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“To the beat y’all ya don’t stop!” – DJ Kool Herc (responsible for coining many of rap’s early shout outs

YouTube user pristafari has uploaded a series of videos from yesterday’s party, and for your convenience, I’ve made you a playlist of them, but here’s one of the best:

Long live Clive Campbell, DJ Kool Herc, and may the spirit of 73 live on forever!

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Weathering Sandy – the WBH Hurricane Guide

Holy shit.

Hello East Coasties,

Enjoying the weather? Still got power? (Or are you reading this on your phone, you lovely devotees?)  So as you may have noticed, the mid-Atlantic and beyond is in the midst of a so-called “Frankenstorm,” a combination of Hurricane Sandy and some mad nor’easter, resulting in apocalyptic rain, winds, damage, and general mayhem, and it’s only getting worse as I write this.

Chill out! It’s the We Ball Harder Hurricane Guide!

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Pouring Ribbons, Cocktail Alchemy

New York’s a city with no shortage of mixology bars, cocktail bars, or so-called speakeasies (shudder). I previously said that Little Branch is the best bar I’ve ever been to, but Pouring Ribbons, a new joint in Alphabet City not even open yet for two weeks, has stepped up to offer worthy competition. While sipping a brilliantly mixed original drink, my friendly bartender mentioned it was only their eighth night open. It’s clear that they’re off to a running start.

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Hype Met – Mission Chinese, New York

Those in New York: run, do not walk, to Mission Chinese Food at 154 Orchard St in the Lower East Side. It’s been documented at length by all and sundry and been touted as the greatest thing to happen to Chinese food since wok first met fire, and that may just be true.

So what’s the deal? It’s the New York outpost of a San Francisco pop-up style joint, the child of chef Danny Bowien, who before Mission had never cooked Chinese food (indeed, none of the cooks in the place were Chinese), but went travelling in China, learning how shit’s done right, and then came back and fused that knowledge and experience into some crazy-good, mind-bending, mouthwatering dishes. The New York branch has been open a few months now and apparently offers a refined tweaking of the original SF experience.

Some of what’s on offer seems traditional, some not, but everything comes out like it’s been imbued with magic tasty awesomeness that takes you on a rollercoaster ride of flavor, heat, and spice.

I’ll only comment upon what my friend and I shared.  We ordered the salt cod fried rice, the Chongqing chicken wings (“explosive chili and crispy beef tripe”), the thrice-cooked pork, and the mapo tofu, all things that can be had, more or less, at any worthwhile Sichuanese place.

The rice was subtle but very very tasty. The bits of salt cod and slow-cooked mackerel provided a nice balance to the sweet Chinese sausage, and the entire dish was a good foil to the spicy onslaught which followed.

The wings – holy shit. Smothered in a seasoning powder containing lots of Sichuan peppercorn for sure, as well as what tasted like some sugar and MSG.  Umami-mouth tingling explosion.  My lips felt like they were fizzing like a glass of warm soda (The seasoning is so fizzing good that I scooped what was left on the plate and ate it straight).  Also, the crispy fried dry chiles they come with are AWESOME, like chips but way way better.

The bacon – Holy shit part two.  Never have I tasted anything more porky and smoky than the thick cut bacon they use.  The sauce was divine, thick, spicy, smoky, and tingly, and the included sliced rice cakes did a good job absorbing it.  My friend and I were rationing it out to have bites throughout the meal.

Mapo tofu – wow, just over the top.  If I had this plus a bowl of plain rice, and nothing else, I’d be very happy.  With everything else, it was probably overkill.  Far more meaty and rich than any mapo I’ve had (of course, due to the generous use of pork shoulder that they advertised) – this wasn’t the incendiary, numbing dish I expected, but almost like a super heavy Chinese variant on chili. Really ridiculous (no picture of this one, I was too defeated at that point to take pictures)

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I’ll conclude with the atmosphere – wild. The entrance is in a basement, only easily detected by the queue outside.  The shopfront looks like the scummiest of shitty takeout windows, only with lots of people milling about and…a keg, providing free beer to people with their names down for a table. Once your name is called (making you feel like a golden-ticket holder) you’re escorted through a narrow corridor, past the glassed-in kitchen, past shelves of ingredients, plates, etc, into what looks like an indoor courtyard or back garden.  Lit up by a huge red dragon, the tables are tight in, it’s raucous, and it’s casual.  The restaurant equivalent of a punk concert, or a proper dive bar with table service

Every single thing about Mission Chinese Food is over the top in the best possible way. Go there ASAP.

http://missionchinesefood.com/ny/

Also, check out a much more thorough NYT slideshow


Cocktail Perfection: Little Branch in NYC

What dreams are made of.

Inconceivably superlative.

Fucking Perfect.

Ladies and gentlemen, the single best bar I have ever been to, and the standard against which all further mixology is to be judged: Little Branch in the West Village in Manhattan.

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