Hip-hop thunder shakes the cities

Grandmaster Flash, Eydea and Abilities and a host of Hip-Hop mad men are blowin’ up downtown.

Tom Horgen

The heavens have been rumbling for quite some time. Cloud masses are scorched bright and red; thunderclaps are heard in the distance. The hip-hop gods are thinking.

They ponder: How to reward a burgeoning hip-hop scene where MC battles and rap shows can be found on any night of the week? Ah, yes. The gods have an answer. Give the kids something momentous. Not a show, but an event. Proven rap acts, such as the Pharcyde, will be called on. And of course, the future will be there too, and groups such as Eyedea & Abilities and The C.O.R.E. But the past must be represented as well – to drop science on these kids. Yes. A demigod himself will be summoned. Sound the horns, Grandmaster Flash is coming. And this one-night experience will be held in a vast space, a setting unfamiliar to rap fans. A place large enough to fit a rave. Yes. A hip-hop rave. And its name? Twizzle Zizzle, of course.

Twin Cities hip-hop fans wanted a quality event and the gods have spoken. Twizzle Zizzle will be kicking ass from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. Saturday at the Hyatt Hotel Convention Center in downtown Minneapolis. Besides the various performers, the event will present an invitation-only MC battle for $500. The small pool of competitors, four or eight, is being kept secret, but the night’s host, Toki Wright of The C.O.R.E., promises that two MCs will be coming from out of state. Fans can also expect a 30-minute DJ marathon in which 30 local turntablists will have one minute each to spin their favorite record. With all this excitement, plus a full liquor bar, people in need of a break will be able to retreat to the “Ultra Chill Out Lounge,” a second room where DJs will spin electronic music all night.

“It should be more or less like a party, and not a standard, basic concert,” Bootie Brown, of the Pharcyde, said. “You’ll have people who are into the show and then you’ll have people who’ll be on the side dancing and doing their thing. Hopefully, everybody’ll get that good ol’ hip-hop feeling that they’ve been looking for.”

Indeed, “Twizzle Zizzle” has been meticulously designed to maximize the excitement that an event of this magnitude should generate.

“People will be entranced by the production – big sound, big lights, big video,” said Woody McBride, a long-time rave promoter and one of the event’s masterminds.

In terms of big visuals, the performers will be projected onto a 40-foot wide, jumbo video screen and a laser light show will blanket the audience throughout the night.

But calling the sound “big” is an understatement. Twizzle Zizzle will be employing the infamous “wall of bass” sound system – a speaker set up that is an alarming 50 feet wide and nine feet high. As a rave promoter and veteran techno DJ, McBride, aka DJ ESP, has been using this awesome system at his raves for more than a decade.

“That always was a lacking thing in hip-hop, as far as people really not concentrating on the sound,” Brown said. “Most of the time hip-hop acts aren’t that great anyways, so minus the sound, it just takes it down a whole ‘nother level.”

But on this night, and for the first time, the wall of bass – with its crisp, booming sound – belongs solely to the hip-hop kids.

And Wright is anticipating a diverse turnout of hip-hop fans – 20-somethings all the way up to the older hip-hop heads who grew up when Grandmaster Flash was doing his thing in the early ’80s. Usually, the older fans don’t make it out to shows, but maybe they’ll come out and support the 45-year-old legend on the wheels of steel, Wright said.

“It’s not that often that you have a Flash or a KRS-One, or somebody like that, somebody that can give you knowledge about the past even if they’re not sitting down having a conversation with you. It’s just the fact that they’re there and giving you that vibe,” he said.

For Abilities, a champion DJ and turntable wizard in his own right, seeing the primary innovator of his craft has special precedence.

“It’s important to know your roots, to know where you come from,” Abilities said. “That’s the only way you’re really going to get a firm grasp on what you’re doing. It’s just respect. It’s not like you have to worship people or anything, but you should recognize what people have done. Otherwise, you’re just a young punk.”

Luckily, the hip-hop gods have deemed the Twin Cities worthy of hosting such an event, where the past, present and future collide.

“You got the biggest sound system to ever be at a hip-hop event outside of the Target Center, you got some of the best local talent mixed with some legends. And you have alcohol which leads to all types of mayhem,” Wright said. “I expect it to be very packed, very sweaty, very loud and very fun.”