Foundation's Saturday night crowd got a chance to hear a hip-hop luminary spin. Afrika Bambaataa, the man behind the deathless electro-funk of Planet Rock, did a set as part of the standing "Party and Bullshit" night in the basement club. Those with visions of the costumed Soulsonic Force shows of yesteryear in their heads might have been a little disappointed: Bam eschewed the Mad Max tribal gear in favor of an unassuming red t-shirt, and perched above the crowd behind a Mac. This being Halloween, however, there was plenty of costumery around. And this being a downtown nightclub, plenty of the "sexy [service occupation]" theme. (I wear my "sexy freelancer" getup 24/7.)
Bam's selection was primarily funk and soul, tipped more towards beat-heavy '70s classicism than '80s futurism, with an occasional nod to Jamaica. This was more of a trip down his memory lane than ours. Truth be told, it sounded like just another old-school hip-hop night, but it was a charge hearing it spun by a guy who was in on the ground floor, who lifted from "funky German boys" Kraftwerk when "miscegenation" wasn't a music-blogger buzzword, and dressed like a post-nuke warlord in a time when swathes of NYC really did look like they'd been bombed.
No matter what else, it's always a pleasure to hear bass through Foundation's soundsystem. It's funny to think that something as elemental to American life as the head-nodding hip-hop beat had to be invented and refined. It's a well-worn saw now, thirty years later, but let's say it again: out of bits and pieces of dancehall, funk, synth-pop and disco, artists in tough circumstances came up with something new. If you squinted your ears and tried to forget that you and the "sexy cop" next to you had heard the "Funky Drummer" break a bajillion times, you could almost hear how it happened.