It wasn't a huge coincidence that DJ Premier was chosen to get the crowd going before the Pro Era crew shut down the stage at the Green Label Sound House in Austin, Texas at SXSW. Nor was it a big surprise he rocked a shirt with “Old School” emblazoned on the front while bumping music from the ‘80s and early ‘90s. Nas, Gang Starr, Big L, Wu Tang, M.O.P., Biggie…the works.
Though some of Premier's jams were over the heads of the ‘80s babies in the crowd, they have not been lost on the ‘90s kids taking over hip-hop. Both Earl Sweatshirt – who did his thing before Primo kicked knowledge – and Joey Bada$$ are at the forefront of a throwback movement. Considered the most talented members of their respective dope crews – Joey's Pro Era crew and Earl's Odd Future – the influence of early hip hop is obvious in almost everything they do.
While the MMG's and Grand Hustle's of the world never disappeared from the game, organically grown, legit crews, bring back the days of Public Enemy and Wu Tang. Watching the Pro Era kids on stage rapping each others lyrics, jumping around together in unison as the beat changes and getting the crowd going with a surely-uncoordinated unity displayed how much these kids were feelin' each other. Add on to that, they were feelin' the love from the crowd and feelin' free to express it. They've got the swag and the double entendres to match it.
Music and culture tend to be cyclical, and the moves these young heads are making reflect a clear intent to return to that era of hip-hop – the era the recently reincarnated Snoop Lion remembers to be a time of love. The organic growth of crews like these crews and others like the A$AP Mob and Black Hippy come at time when hip-hop can return to that place.
None of these crews are tied to major record labels (though A$AP Rocky is signed as a solo artist to RCA/Polo) which allows them to express ideas, thoughts and emotions not warped by the demand for profit. Fueled by the internet and easy-to-access programs to create music, these high school kids can do their thing in a bubble.
It won't last long. Earl is already hitting back at the media in an attempt to maintain a sense of normalcy––is talent will be a gift to the world and a curse to himself. Not to mention the Pro Era crew has already been exposed to loss, when one of their members, Capital STEEZ, reportedly committed suicide on Christmas Eve.
They honored their former member in an similar manner to the way DJ Premier honored all of his fallen friends, when he laid down their tracks an hour before, then absolutely killed “Survival Tactics” featuring their fallen friend’s verse rapped by everyone on stage.
And, just in case there was any doubt about era the Pro Era is shouting out, they got a “Fuck Po-lice” chant going, as the weed smell took over the venue to end the night.