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The program repeats tonight and tomorrow afternoon in Baltimore.
-- Gail Wein
DJ Premier and DJ P
Hip-hop fans repeatedly craned their necks to spot beatmaker DJ Premier at the downtown club Avenue on Thursday night. Since the show was on the venue's third floor, which doesn't have a backstage area, the longtime DJ for rap duo Gang Starr nonchalantly strolled through the crowd of awed onlookers while heading to the decks.
It wasn't long before a mass of camera phones surrounded the unassuming but revered beat architect, who's produced everyone from Sinead O'Connor to Jay-Z. With a high-powered set aimed at traditionalist hip-hoppers, Premier's needle dropped on a plethora of tunes he'd concocted himself. KRS-One's "MC's Act Like They Don't Know" initiated an eruption, as the club's floor became a trampoline to bouncing fans.
"Hip-hop is in trouble right now," Premier declared from the turntables in a sandpapery rasp. "And we're here to fix that." Sidestepping rap's cliched crunk fare -- sorry, Lil' Jon -- he mostly spun tracks built around jazzy beat loops and choruses not with crooned refrains but precisely scratched vocal fragments like those on Nas's "Nas Is Like."
DJ P, who preceded Premier, has become both beloved and occasionally despised for popularizing the mash-up -- merging two disparate tunes into one. His breakneck-paced set included seamless mixes of such improbable pairings as Suzanne Vega and Tupac Shakur. It seems P enjoyed the jams as much as the crowd did, as he briefly abandoned the turntables for the dance floor and unleashed frenzied break-dance moves.
-- Craig Smith
Queen's Dominion, which performed Thursday night at National Geographic's Grosvenor Auditorium as part of the sixth annual Washington Jewish Music Festival, records for Tzadik, a label whose specialties include "radical Jewish music." Yet there was little radicalism in the quintet's performance, which ensemble leader Basya Schechter explained was an attempt to conjure "landscapes" from the Persian empire during the reign of Cyrus the Great.