hip hop music

March 23, 2004

Okay Party People, When I Say Product, You Say Placement!

Funny little story from SxSW, courtesy of the Creative Commons blog.

Call and Response

My most vivid memory from South by Southwest:

Thursday night in Austin, TX, USA, MSN threw a party across the street from the convention center. It was in a spare warehouse space, like a rave or fly-by-night underground party, but the fancy lighting, free drinks, and imported-looking crowd (L.A.) all said Big Bucks. The women checking the guest list looked as if they might moonlight on The Price is Right. The event was planned, from what I could gather, as a buzz-builder for MSN's big move into the iTunes-style content business.

When I came in, the crowd -- around two hundred, I'd guess -- had gathered around the stage where legendary DJ Grandmaster Flash was in the middle of a set...

...after a compelling tweak of the bassline in Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust," Grandmaster Flash cut the music and prepared the crowd for some call-and-response. It was old-school audience participation time. He'd play a hook, then cut the music, and the crowd would shout an answer in time with the song.

The call?

The chorus of "Good Times," a 1979 disco classic whose bassline Grandmaster's labelmates, the Sugarhill Gang, lifted for their single "Rapper's Delight" -- probably one of the top few most famous hip-hop songs ever, and one of the very first.

The response?

When I do this, said Grandmaster Flash, playing the vocal "Good Times," then dropping the volume, everyone yell "MSN."

People in the audience looked at each other.

Got it? he said into the microphone, Good times -- MSN! Good times -- MSN! Got it? Here we go.

A few people booed. The DJ played a few rounds of the vocal, then cut the volume.

Grandmaster Flash, and about a dozen audience members, shouted "MSN!"

A few scattered boos followed. Flash tried to rally the crowd. He played the call again: Good Times . . . Good Times . . . And the music cut out again -- the audience's turn.

This time they responded. But they didn't say "MSN."

What did they say? I asked the couple in front of me.

They said, 'Bulls--t,' the couple said, laughing. I asked my friends. They heard the same thing.

After a couple more such calls and responses, Grandmaster Flash went back to the regular show, and right away the crowd threw its hands in the air and danced again as if none of it had ever happened.

I don't really blame Grandmaster Flash. Or MSN for that matter. It's all just business.

Whether it's smart business is another story. And whether the stunt's layer upon layer of irony was intended or accidental is simply a mystery.


Also notable while we're on their page, CC's new music sharing license.

Posted by jsmooth995 at March 23, 2004 2:55 AM

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