Thursday, January 18, 2007


Rehearsals were so crazy before the Wednesday Mos Def show that we weren't even in front of a computer long enough to fill you in on the madness of it all. Just to backtrack, all this was for the kickoff to Jazz At Lincoln Center's "American Songbook Series"—a good look for Mos at this point in his trajectory since he's given the finger to the industry (again) and still has a Midas touch with everything he does, the films and all that.

Case in point: You gotta think dude already had the Lincoln Center thing booked up by the time he saw HYPNOTIC doing its thing in the street last fall. So it was raw that he put the afroastro thuggery of our next movement sound together with some of the jazz guys he's played with in the past several years. It's not a forgone conclusion that the idea would even come together—for one thing, HYPNOTIC plays in modes and has wildly different reference points when it comes to music: the meeting of Asian and African tuning systems with a hip-hop sensibility or something like that we don't play anything else except HYPNOTIC music. We worked it out though, and it was a good learning experience to kick it with a clique of left-field experimental dudes that included the glassine pianist Robert Glasper, soulful bassist John Benitez John Benitez and drummer Chris Dave, whose My Space page says "psychedelic/progressive/experimental" and has a couple bikini breezies on it but is otherwise almost as terrible looking as our own MySpace page. Also Casey Benjamin came thru on sax and flute; his his MySpace is talkin bout a black and gold 1979 Pontiac Trans Am. Let's see it sir!

Anyways, can you say that—that you bodied Lincoln Center? At some moments it certainly felt like it. Mos flowed, singing and rhyming, over a wide range of "American songs" and Ben Ratliff of the NYTimes wrote that HYPNOTIC "did exactly what street brass bands are good at, making a powerful arrangement of whatever music is put in front of it." On Wednesday night that music went like this:

"I Put A Spell On You" Screamin Jay Hawkins
"Kick In The Door" Notorious BIG
"The Grunt" The JBs
"Dollar A Day For New Orleans" aka "Katrina Klap" Mos Def (over Juvenile's "Nolia Clap" beat)
"Like A Hurricane" Neil Young
"People Make The World Go Round" The Stylistics
"Star Spangled Banner" Mos Def arrangement
"Stakes Is High" De La Soul

and even the NYTimes guy got caught in the HYPNOTIC energy field: "the stage arrangement looked amazing, with the brass players arranged, four on a side, into opposing crescents facing each other, the night sky and blinking lights from traffic visible through the window behind them."

The night was dedicated to James Brown, Muhammad Ali's earthday and the memory of Sean Bell and it was one of those cosmically strange ones inasmuch as it felt less like an end point and more of a beginning. Let's see what happens next.

Above: custom RIP Sean Bell hoodies inspired by Jean Nelson and flipped by Twin. Below: Mos Def and Twin rep at Lincoln Center.

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