Music collective The Blast popped up seven months ago and besides pushing hip-hop on its blog and Facebook group, the outfit has since thrown more than 20 events, put out an EP, a mixtape, a magazine, four music videos, a line of T-shirts and launched a DJ school called Blast University. A few weeks ago, the group brought over Beat Junkies DJ Icy Ice. Tomorrow it’s the turn of Canadian DJ and producer Agile (real-name Ajene Griffith), who will play at Marquee in Taipei.
Agile’s skills landed him in the studio with American rapper Nas, and together they produced the song Heaven, which was featured on Nas’ sixth album, God’s Son. This was followed by a tour with Snoop Dogg in 2003.
“It’s a weird moment when you have someone’s records on your wall, and then in a flash you’re working with them,” said Agile on collaborating with Nas. “It was something out of the movies. They sent me first-class tickets, had a limo driver holding my name for me at the airport, and took me off to the studio to work with Nas for three days.”
Even though the hip-hop scene in Taipei is relatively quiet when compared to the gigs he normally plays, Agile says he is pumped about tomorrow’s show and is looking forward to developing his guanxi (關係, personal contacts).
“Many places throughout Asia celebrate all the elements of hip-hop, something that is sometimes lost ... in America,” he said. “I also like that it’s not just about club anthems in the music scene. Skills mean something, which is refreshing.”
Agile’s style was once strictly hip-hop and R ’n’ B. But like many other artists, his sound has evolved and he has embraced the digital revolution.
“Hip-hop is where my heart will always be, but as a DJ I am more interested in making sure people are losing their minds on the dance floor,” he said. “The iPod changed everything. It changed how we listen and consume music. Deejaying in the era of iPods, the Internet and podcasts, most people have wider ranges in their musical tastes. Most DJs have adapted to that, myself included.”
Every Wednesday at Marquee, The Blast hosts an open-format party.
“We run the gamut,” says Leo Shia, whose performance moniker is Leo37.
“You can go into any club in the city on a Wednesday night and I would argue that 90 percent of them will have the exact same playlist, just in a different order,” he said. “That’s not a diss. I have no problem with Top 40/dance music, but there needs to be a balance. That’s what we offer. Variety in genre, era and artists played on three turntables by DJs who love good music.”
But hip-hop is still their main squeeze, so the collective brings in international artists like Agile.
“The hip-hop scene here is ‘still growing’ as I would like to say, and this motivates me to stay out here and help push hip-hop culture on this side of the globe,” said Blast crew member Timothy Torres, who performs as Oohchild.
“You would never call us a promotional team,” said Leo37. “We’re more like Ocean’s Eleven in the sense that everyone plays a very specific but different role from one another and in doing so, we dabble in everything.”
“We each have our own areas of expertise and that type of diversity is healthy. Someone like Vicar comes with a classic vibe, Leo brings his handsome boy modeling looks, and Serpico is our token white friend to make us look like we are cultured.”