At about the same time that Chicago and Ringo Starr were serving up nostalgia at the Grammy Awards, rising DJ RL Grime was dishing fresh cuts to kids at U Street Music Hall.
Sunday night, both crowds were served a course that they knew well — stale American pie for those watching on TV, meat and potatoes rave-trap for those in the club. The former may have limped along with tired legs, but the latter trampled about with frantic bursts of energy.
It makes sense that even a Sunday night EDM show in Washington would be a sold-out affair, now that once-underground DJs are taking home album of the year honors. The Daft Punk trickle-down effect trickled onto the dance floor in spots Sunday. But as RL Grime, Harry Steinway has a style more influenced by Southern hip-hop than French house music.
Steinway is 22 years old and from Los Angeles. Before he used the name RL Grime (a twist on “Goosebumps” author R.L. Stine), he made a name for himself as Clockwork, DJing electro-house music. The hip-hop inspired alter ego originally was meant to be a fun side project, but after co-releasing a remix of Kanye West’s hit “Mercy” and following that with similar, well-received bangers, Steinway has been taking the project more seriously. His newest material as RL Grime has a sweeter tone. He says dubstep crooner James Blake is a big influence.
On Sunday night, everything from the track selection, to the style of DJing, to the use of the microphone was borrowed from hip-hop. Mixing only lasted for a few bars of each song and tracks were dropped faster than you could say Kanye. When flamboyant, ravey synths did make their way into the set, they were set atop crawling trap beats. The room was heavy on lean, light on groove.
Beat after beat, crowd sing-alongs rose up from behind black bandanas and steamed-up Warby Parkers. The DJ and audience were playing a game of Which Favorite Hit of Mine Will Be Played Next? RL Grime was winning.
Ultimately, the whole thing felt a bit cheap. It was like watching a trap-Pandorabot shower sugar cubes onto a mob whose members all have a sweet tooth. Even so, it was hard to resist joining in on vocals when Three 6 Mafia came through the speakers. At least it beat limping through an awards show.
Yenigun is a freelance writer.