Sunday, December 20, 2009

If you're looking for a stocking filler for the middle-aged B-boy/fly girl in your extended family, how about this fascinating photo-book by Beezer? Wild Dayz collects picture taken by Andy Beese, then just a teenage amateur photographer, of the early Bristol hip hop scene 1983-1987. So there's shots of the Wild Bunch deejaying at clubs like the Dug Out and the Crypt, pix of kids breakdancing on the streets of St Paul's, snaps of graffiti (some by 3D later of Massive Attack), photos of various sound systems in action. Plus some odds 'n' sods: Ari Up and Mark Stewart and, unexpectedly, a very young, lightly bearded Jarvis Cocker performing with Pulp at the Thekla.

What struck me, looking at the book, and in light of recent arguments, is how rapidly and how absolutely hip hop seized the imagination of the youth of Bristol, black and white. From about 1982--the year of "The Message", "Planet Rock", "Buffalo Gals"--they, like others in Britain's big cities, embraced wholesale the culture of deejaying/graffiti/breakdancing/MCing. They adopted the look and the language. They saw something fresher than anything else around, something that looked like the future, and threw themselves into it unreservedly, without hesitation. Now hip hop didn't utterly supplant and erase what they'd been into previously (reggae and funk/soul for most, postpunk/2-Tone for some) but it did assimilate those things into a new framework.

This obviously relates to my point here about things emerging out of nowhere. It's happened before. Acid house/rave is another example--an entire cultural economy of new sounds, new rituals, new clothes, new slang, assembling itself with incredible rapidity, and so completely that (as with hip hop) whatever historical materials were elements in the music/culture's make-up seemed to lose any reference to a before-time... a movement so compellingly new and total that people became converts overnight, abandoned whatever else they'd been into up until then...

Now a photobook of ye olde B-boy dayz might on the surface seem to be contributing to the retrospection that hampers new formations of this scale and intensity... contributes to making them seem inconceivable, a thing of the past. But I don't think so. Looked at in the right way, a book like Wild Dayz is a salutary reminder: emergence is a possibility.

buy Wild Dayz here

read an interview with Beezer

Beezer photo gallery