Jul 212013
 

It’s Sunday morning, well afternoon actually – its 12:27pm to be exact.

I’m recovering from a big night in a little French café next door to my hostel in Bushwick, Brooklyn.  Probably not the most desirable suburb according to locals, but it suits me just fine.

So if you have looked at my Facebook, Instagram or YouTube posts lately you will see that I have been busy over the past week.  There is just so much going on in New York City and I really just wish I could do more.

This week’s flavour has been old school hip hop – 90’s era to be exact.  I went to my much-anticipated Mobb Deep concert on Wednesday at Stage 48 in Manhattan with a German guy I met through a CouchSurfing event I created – his name is Maxamillion. We were both really surprised at the quality of the support acts as was the crowd with nearly all of them getting booed off stage.  Even the main support – Joe Budden was ordinary, I guess we were all waiting for the real deal to arrive and that they did.

The legendary Mobb Deep live at Stage 48 Manhattan

The legendary Mobb Deep live at Stage 48 Manhattan

It was awesome to hear some of my all-time favourite tracks performed live such as ‘Survival of the Fittest’, ‘Getaway’ and of course ‘Shook Ones Pt II’.  I have listened to these 2 guys for over 20 years and have never been able  to see them live up until now and will probably never get another, so it was great to tick that off the bucket list.

Wikipedia picture of Queensbridge

Wikipedia picture of Queensbridge

The following night I heard about a free concert being organised by the legend Marley Marl in Queensbridge Park in Queens.  Queensbridge is home to many hip hop artists such as Nas and Mobb Deep and is regularly mentioned in their lyrics.  The actual bridge itself which connects Queens to Manhattan is stunning and I don’t understand why it doesn’t get as much attention as the Brooklyn Bridge.

Dres from Black Sheep performing at Summerstage in Queensbridge Park.

Dres from Black Sheep performing at Summerstage in Queensbridge Park.

The concert featured more old school hip hop acts such as Black Sheep, Special Ed, Large Professor, Jarobi from the Jungle Brothers and the legendary Das Efx who were the main act.  The quality of the line-up was so impressive and best of all – it was free! There is no chance of a show like that in Australia but in New York this type of thing is a regular occurrence especially over summer.

Das Efx performing at Summerstage in Queensbridge Park.

Das Efx performing at Summerstage in Queensbridge Park.

To complete my hat trick, the following night I went to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx for the Legends of the Summer Tour featuring Jay Z and Justin Timberlake.  The show was spectacular and ticked all the boxes including ambience, sound & lighting, crowd participation and most importantly the actual performances.  As I mentioned in my Facebook posts, the highlight of the show was the last song ‘Empire State of Mind’ which was opened by JT doing a rendition of New York New York and featured a surprise performance from Alicia Keys.  I have never heard a crowd so electrified in all my life.

JT performing at Legends of the Summer

JT performing at Legends of the Summer

New York has so much love for real hip hop – and by all demographics.  Whether you are on the subway, listening to the radio, chilling out in a bar or out in a club you can hear and see people appreciating hip hop.  The hip hop subculture was born in New York so it makes sense about why it is so popular here.

Jay Z performing at Legends of the Summer

Jay Z performing at Legends of the Summer

I’m glad I decided to hang around in New York for a little longer because to miss out on all of this would have been a tragedy.  I’ll continue to post some more videos of the performances and you can view them on the tour videos page here.

Jul 152013
 

It’s been over a week since my last post and as usual a lot has happened in that space of time. My solo world tour has now spanned 6 incredible weeks and is officially my longest ever time spent outside Australia.  So I guess if I were to do a world tour health check now against some key criteria, my scores would be:

Overall Rating (14th July 2013)  = 62%

  1. Fun factor 9/10
  2. Cities visited 7/10 – The weather in Fiji was prohibitive and LA was somewhat disappointing.
  3. Personal Challenge 5/10 – I’m definitely not pushing my boundaries enough here, particularly in relation to being more extrovert.
  4. People 7/10 – Whilst I have met some incredible people, this rating is more about the volume of relationships made rather than the quality.
  5. Health/Fitness 3/10 – No gym since LA (5 weeks), loads of alcohol consumed daily and whilst food has amazed I haven’t exactly been going healthy.

I think the important thing to note here is that this solo world tour is not really a holiday in the strictest definition.  I do actually want to achieve a few personal goals outside seeing some beautiful places and meeting awesome people.  I have goals to really challenge myself in difficult situations by generally being more spontaneous and much more proactive in relation to seeking and forming new relationships.   I also intend on being away for circa 12 months so its important I stay healthy both mentally and physically.

So back to what I have done…

Once again I have been fortunate to receive such wonderful hospitality from my great friends.  Following San Francisco, I spent a week in Virginia hosted by Kay and Gabe whom I have known for some time and have shared some memorable experiences with.  They have a beautiful property in Purcellville – Virginia. It was a week of pure R&R enjoying the simple things in life among good friends Samantha, Andrew and their beautiful daughter Milla whom are from Australia.  We had wide open spaces, great conversations and loads of laughs during our week together and I could not have scripted a better way to spend the 4th July in the USA.

I now find myself in the familiar territory of New York having visited here about 4 years ago.  I’m staying in Greenpoint (Brooklyn) with Mandy and her fiancé Robbie and housemate Bianca – the place is called The Ceeflat and is an art gallery that doubles as residence for these awesome people. Greenpoint is very close to the up and coming Williamsburg which has exploded since the last time I visited. It’s great to be staying in Brooklyn away from the hussle of Manhattan.

Thus far I have been quite disciplined about shopping as I really don’t have the space and don’t fancy spending my time in stores. But New York is an exception, you can not come to this city without experiencing some retail therapy.  New York is home to stores not found elsewhere in the USA or abroad.  My 2 notable mentions are the following:

1. Sneakers – whilst I am no hardcore expert in sneakers I do know enough to say that New York is home to some amazing stores like DQM, Fight Club, ALife, Nike ID Studio and several other smaller boutiques.  My passion for sneakers really took off thanks to a good friend of mine Greg (DJ Vaughn) who sadly is not with us any longer.  I fondly remember visiting loads of sneaker stores with him in Japan a few years ago, Undefeated in particular – and since then I make a habit to visit sneaker stores in his honour when I travel.  Even if I don’t intend on buying anything, I still visit just to check out the collections and represent just as he would.

2. During my welcome to NYC dinner with Mandy and Robbie, I was given a great recommendation for a hip new eyewear chain that has recently opened its first store in NYC called Warby Parker. Many people describe this store as the Apple store for eyewear with an impressive open plan store layout, young hipster staff and unbeatable priced eyewear.  The frames are the latest designs made in the same factories that most of the ‘brand’ eyewear comes from – minus the price tag.  $95 buys you a pair of eyeglasses with prescription lenses ($150 for sunglasses).  They have some innovative concepts such as free home try on and 30 day returns if you decide you don’t like the frames.  They also give a pair of frames to someone in need for every pair purchased! It would be great to have a store like this in Australia.

Redman @ Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival

Redman @ Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival

Yesterday, I experienced the Brooklyn Hip Hop festival which is now in its 9th year.  Words can’t describe how brilliant the performances were – with Redman, EPMD and Pusha T all simply ‘dope’.  The festival was held on the water at Brooklyn Bridge park with Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridge in the backdrop.  Brooklyn is home to many of my favourite artists and is nearly always mentioned in the lyrics of their tracks.  So when artists physically perform in Brooklyn you know everything is going to be ‘A grade’ as the crowd are the finest connoisseurs of hip hop.  I was so absorbed with the music yesterday I literally had to force myself to take a few photos.

Redman @ Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival

Redman @ Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival

There was a tribute to MCA from the Beastie Boys and an amazing expression of turntablism  by DJ Scratch. My jaw was literally on the ground after hearing him scratch ‘Mary had a little lamb’ from the Rob Base classic “I wanna rock right now”.

There is so much love for real hip hop in the USA and from all walks of life. The crowd was diverse and everyone appreciated the quality of the performances equally.

EPMD @ Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival

EPMD @ Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival

Whilst America may have it’s fair share of critics around the world, no-one can take anything away from its stature in my eyes.  I was talking to a local at the end of the show and he took the following words straight from my mouth “What makes America what is it… is simply the freedom of expression people have in this amazing country”.  There is no place on earth where people are so free to do and express what they want.

I am having such a blast in NYC that I have decided to see out the rest of my USA world tour component here.

I love New York. I love the USA.

Peace.

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