KRS-ONE, Common, & Q-Tip Tear It Down for Smirnoff

A classic is timeless. It’s always current, yet never immediate.What happens when you meld the spirit of a classic with the immediacy of the present? This mixture was put to the test Tuesday when Smirnoff, along with true schoolers Q-tip, Common, and Blastmaster KRS-One, launched its Signature Mix Series. The event set off a campaign featuring remixes of a classic song from each emcee’s catalogue, done by Cool & Dre, Just Blaze, and DJ Premiere respectively, to coincide with newly created cocktails, and is part of a larger “Drink Responsibly” campaign. The main idea was to take some of the artists’ classic songs and infuse some 2008 energy.

People throw the term "Real Hip-Hop" around with impunity but this was one event where it was actually appropriate. The warm-up music was like a time warp. Late 80s, early 90s classics from Jeru, Mobb Deep, and Gangstarr made it a backpacker’s paradise. Album cuts almost no singles. Perfect backdrop for what was about to commence. Live mixing at a party? A lost art that was in full effect.

Rocking a leather bubble coat and dark shades, Q-tip took the stage to the original “Midnight," from the classic Midnight Maraudersalbum. A few sponsor shout-outs and a mic change and we ready to go. Cool & Dre added more energy to the original to make it more uptempo but the essence of the original is intact. A safe but dope approach that fits Q-tip’s style and delivery perfectly.

Following “Midnight 2008,”we got treated to tribe mainstays like “Footprints” from People’s Instinctive Travels And The Paths of Rhythm. He’s in a zone caught up.. This crowd is ready. Tip beat boxes the bassline to “Nobody Beats the Biz” then rolls into Tribe banger “Can I Kick It.” Admittedly it looks strange without Phife. Can Tip still kick it? He most certainly can.

Next up is Common. This is a decidedly different setting than the last time we saw him, and the ‘Go emcee responded accordingly. He entered the stage to “The People,” brimming with energy. From there he dropped his verse from “Hit ‘Em High,” which the crowd rhymed verbatim. Girls go crazy for “Go,” and everybody in the front of the stage jumped in unison.

The party slows down for a while, as the song Common chose to remix was the J Dilla powered “The Light.” The original was a turning point in Commons career and really the launching point for his current place in the game. From there, we got “Testify” and an impromptu freestyle acapella, complimented by the “jugga jugga” of turntables. 

Shortly thereafter we got to hear “The Light 2008.” After an R.I.P. dedication to Dilla, we caught an earful of the remix. Just Blaze took the song in a different direction and the drums really come out in a live performance. Piano keys, strings, and heavier drums than the original make it harder without losing its sensibilities. Overall, Common gave a hard core, more Hip-Hop centric performance.

Batting cleanup was the Blastmaster KRS-One, with the legendary DJ Premier on the wheels of steel. His set opened with "Hip-Hop vs. Rap." If you’ve ever seen Kris live you already know what you have in store. Freestyles and timeless hits abound and the crowd is not allowed to rest. “South Bronx,” “Black Cop,” ”MC’s Act Like They Don’t Know,” and mostly post-BDP hits keep the crowd hyped.

A Hip-Hop history run down from “Classic” melds into “Step Into My World,” which got the loudest response until the piano keys of the unsittable “Bridge Is Over” sent us all into a frenzy. Somewhere, Mr. Magic gets a toothache.

Finally they stop the show for "Criminal Minded 2008." One of Scott la Rock’s seminal creations. That’s pressure you can’t believe, but if anyone has the pedigree to bless this song, and the history with Krs, it’s Preemo. The song is standard Preem, sounding like something from a Warriorz era M.O.P. The remix contained new lyrics from KRS. It's dopeness, but I don't know that it achieves that same timelessness.

From there, the evening took a turn from simply dope, to historic, as Grandmaster Flash and the Furious 5 including Melle Mel take the stage along with Positive K. Mel freestyled over BDP classic “I’m Still #1” and rips it. To e honest I could barely make out what he was saying but it sounded damn good. Gun Show!

Three of history’s dopest emcees, teamed with three current incredible producers to rock the house, and breathe new life into three songs that were nowhere near the respirator. Three great performances. True to the spirit of the original. True to the idea that greatness will always be relevant. Remix indeed. Classic.

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