The party professionalMC/DJ Unite takes hip-hop back to its raucous roots
"For me, it's all about the flow, and the feedback that comes from rocking live for a crowd," says San Diego rapper Unite. Like many fans, he's unimpressed with the current state of live hip-hop shows. His new single "Saturday Nite b/w Rock Solid," on local label Hands On Records, is an ode to what hip-hop once was: a way of coming together and having a crowd get down in the unity of an MC's voice and crowd control.
"It's just some party shit-nobody's doing that right now, and I thought it would be good to bring that back," Unite says. He and producer/label owner Rudy "Myxplyx" Milanao are taking care to get the single pressed onto vinyl for a reason: that's the way true hip-hop is done. In an era where most fans' exposure to hip-hop comes through CDs or videos, it's easy to forget that hip-hop is an art form born live at the party. After all, MC stands for Master of Ceremonies, and a DJ is required for "hands on" control of the music.
Come 2005, most rappers are content to stand on stage and rap over beats supplied by a chintzy CD player-holding a mic in one hand and waving a white towel in the other, as if surrendering to their own wackness. With such predictable posturing, "performance" seems a lost art.
"You need a DJ on stage with you, because it's all about the interaction between the MC and the DJ, and the way the DJ uses the records to move the crowd," Unite says.
Unite knows a thing or two about DJ-ing. He's a member of one of San Diego's best-known reggae DJ crews, Tribe of Kings, whose packed Sunday night residency at Bar Dynamite is one of the longest-standing club nights in town. "DJ-ing has definitely taught me how to work with a crowd, how to build the circle of energy that comes from playing for a crowd and reflecting their energy back to them," he says. "I started spinning roots reggae because everybody I knew was a hip-hop DJ, and I wanted to have my own take on it."
But since hip-hop was born from the Jamaican tradition of sound system DJs rocking a party with both records and a mic, the difference between the two styles is hard to find.
"MC-ing for reggae and for hip-hop isn't really that different," Unite says. "It all comes back to getting into that zone where the crowd is with you."Catch Unite spinning reggae at Rox downtown on Friday nights, and at Bar Dynamite on Sunday nights. Look for "Saturday Night" at all vinyl retailers that support local hip-hop