Afrika Islam and Grand Mixer D. ST., the Infinity Rappers: Club Lingerie, Los Angeles CA

STREET ART AT LINGERIE: L.A. TAKES THE RAP FROM N.Y. MOVEMENT

AFRIKA ISLAM and Grand Mixer D. ST. scratched and mixed, Mr. Wiggle and Little Lep did the breaks and spray-painted some graffiti, and the Infinity Rappers rapped up a storm at Club Lingerie on Saturday night.

Billed as the “South Bronx Rap Party,” the show provided Los Angeles with its first look at the full audio-visual spectrum of New York’s “rap” movement. As a ghetto-spawned street art, it didn’t make the transition to the Hollywood nightclub setting with complete success, and some of the scheduled performers didn’t appear.

But the revue was a culturally incendiary mission, and from the way the L.A. trendies who filled the club were drinking it in, you can expect to see our own rap and scratch emporiums sprouting soon.

Rap is a rhythmic, sung-and-spoken vocal style that is thoroughly democratic: All a kid needs is a loud, portable tape player and a street corner or a patch of park and he can become a star. So can the kids who do the stunningly acrobatic dances called the breaks.

The other stars are the mixers, who manually manipulate pairs of turntables (on the streets and in clubs) so that different tracks blend and collide. This is the “scratch” technique, and on the Lingerie stage Saturday it was used to drop depth-charges that exploded in the middle of the incessant funk rhythm tracks.

The scheduled headliner, Afrika Bambaataa, didn’t make it, leaving the Infinity Rappers as the main act of the evening. This three-man team wasn’t especially charismatic, but their vocal unisons and exchanges gradually developed a compelling momentum.

It was the scrawny Mr. Wiggle and his cohort Little Lep who really energized the show. As the crowd cleared a space in the middle of the dance floor, the pair went through a virtual gymnastics demonstration, tumbling and jerking to the shouted encouragement of the rappers on stage.

The other absentee was graffiti artist and rapper Futura 2000, who was immortalized on the Clash’s Combat Rock album and who did his stuff on tour with the English rockers last year. Rap can actually be viewed as an aural equivalent of graffiti: Both are individual signatures, both divert their materials from their intended use (paint cans and walls, turntables and old records), and both are executed in public places.

Mr. Wiggle did scrawl some graffiti on a wooden panel hung for the purpose, but the gesture seemed out of its element and didn’t translate from street to club as well as the music did.

The event (which the Lingerie reprised Sunday afternoon) didn’t have the structure and focus of a show per se. It was more of an environment in which dancing took priority over watching. This format, a sort of “live disco,” is being touted by some as the coming thing, and the turnout and response of the L.A. crowd Saturday made that look like a good prediction.

© Richard CromelinLos Angeles Times, 7 February 1983

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