Back when I was but a pea stuck in a plastic straw, before the invention of the internet or, in the case of Germany, the telephone, there was once a city named Prague, in a country no longer existing called Czechoslovakia, whose post-Cold War development was something of a dry run for the banality that’s overtaken Berlin this last half-decade. During that prehistoric period referred to by anthropologists as The Cobain Era, Prague (pronounced by its natives as “PRA-ha”) celebrated itself as the “Paris of the 1990s” despite the fact that the innovations of the time mostly concerned the mass production of fried cheese and getting hippies to wear pictures of Mozart on their t-shirts. Which may explain why this rumored civilization is currently considered a lost one.
But termite life is persistent which, in the case of former eastern-block countries, would include many of its bands, whose members often had to spend a spell in the coal mines during Communism, but were shielded enough from the dregs of market research by the same forces that oppressed them. This allowed them to believe that Frank Zappa was Debbie Gibson and the result led to some weird-ass groups such as UŽ JSME DOMA becoming popular draws – national heroes, really – despite the fact that they sound like caffeinated circus performers hired to clean Tom Waits’ real estate investments. High praise from the land of surrealism! In a world where Britney Spears is referred to as a survivor, a little perspective is appreciated.
You know what didn’t survive the onslaught of global capitalism? Hip hop as an art form. Which might explain why it’s the most nostalgic of genres (remember when mid-1990s rappers started using the term “Ol’ Skool” to describe the music of 1991?) and why history-obsessed Berlin will welcome with flapping tongue any rapper who managed to graze the US top 50 before the start of the century. But evidently Ol’ Skool has finally aged into expiration: The RAPHISTORY crew, spinning at the little-attended but often well-curated black-music fetishizing Bohannon, are calling it a day on back-in-the-day, and giving their 1980s and 1990s vinyl a final spin that should be both loving and respectful of the Ol’ Skool pedigree, as they’ll be holding a quiz, giving out diplomas and, more importantly in this shrinking economy, t-shirts. Email [email protected] to register.
Capitalism may have killed off rap music, but its byproducts are thriving, particularly sneaker obsession, though it’s telling that recent ad campaigns have emphasized sports over stutter, which is why Berlin’s Nike Store refers to itself as a stadium. Shopping is a sport, you know, and whomever dies with the most toys wins, even if s/he can’t afford a burial plot. The “stadium” is hosting a Friday afternoon exhibition of RONALD DICK’s soccer-oriented photos, as well as a ”mood-umentary” by KEN-TONIO YAMAMOTO which, apparently, you can also watch on-line without having to change out of your Adidas sweatpants. If only we could download footwear as easily as we can the collected works of LL Cool J.