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Daps on Daps on Daps: An hour and change at the front lines of trap-rave

Posted by Chris DeVille | July 16, 2013 11:54 PM

The mirrors that line the walls at Skully's were so fogged up when I walked in that I almost expected Kate Winslet's hand to emerge from the molly-popping masses to dramatically streak across the condensation. It was 11:30 p.m. on a Monday and Skully's was packed beyond comfort, to the point that sweat started to collect instantly in the small of my back. "Hey Columbus, it's hot as f--- in here," exclaimed one of the DJs on stage. "Oh my god."

That voice either belonged to the 24-year-old Brooklyn DJ/producer Baauer, he of heavily memed "Harlem Shake" fame, or RL Grime, a 22-year-old Cali party-rocker who already smashed Skully's once this year. True co-headliners, they stood side by side atop a humongous video display, flanked by blinding lights and numerous ancillary screens. The monstrous central projection broadcast ever-evolving images not limited to a chain link fence, eyeballs, stacks of money on fire, a mouth close-up (Kanye's mouth from the "New Slaves" projections, maybe?), a skyscraper's lit-up windows and that morphing Lindsay Lohan mugshot collection. Glowsticks and stacatto synths spiraled above the claustrophobia as digitized bass detonations threatened to take out the floor. One guy in pajama pants and flip-flops carried a glowstick/lightsaber thing into the communal sweat-grind; some other people stepped out of the chaos looking like they just rode one of those log flume rollercoasters.

They call it the Infinite Daps Tour, but Infinite Tabs is more like it, be that acid or Google Chrome. Only this stimuli-saturated generation could have come up with a party like this. One of Baauer's new tracks even sounded like a rhythmically inclined dial-up modem attempting to connect for all eternity.

These guys specialize in a genre called trap rave, which basically crossbreeds bass-heavy Southern rap music with bass-heavy fratboy dubstep. Like most examples of white people re-appropriating primarily black music, its racial dimension is sticky. Baauer in particular caught flack as an "interloper" when all the white people wilding out recklessly to his "Harlem Shake" on YouTube blocked the shine of the original Harlem-born dance of the same name. (For what it's worth, when "Harlem Shake" dropped unceremoniously at 12:39 a.m., Baauer seemed a little embarrassed: "I made this when I was five years old.") It doesn't help that Baauer and Grime look like the corniest white guys you've ever seen when dancing clumsily atop their video throne. They could easily be the heels in a Beastie Boys video.

Their stuff knocks, though. It's incredibly potent for setting off a room full of juiced-up youths. Jittery originals tweaked like "Breaking Bad" extras while college kids on summer break twerked like Miley Cyrus video extras. Snippets of popular rap songs by the likes of 2 Chainz, Kendrick Lamar and Young Jeezy were flipped and twisted into hulking hybrid club-smashers. It wasn't all hip-hop; house production duo Disclosure, artful R&B star Miguel and rockers Yeah Yeah Yeahs went through the wringer too.

One of the images they kept returning to was a Roman cross on a hill, but if these two have a lord and savior, it's Yeezus. Over and over again they repurposed Kanye West songs, and not just epics like "Dark Fantasy" or proven club bangers like "Mercy", though those were in there too. The abrasive Yeezus material hung heaviest in the mix, from those ominous TNGHT horns out of "Blood on the Leaves" to an awkwardly sped-up remix of the nauseous "Hold My Liquor" to a gnarly trap remix of the undanceable "New Slaves". Under the influence of the Infinite Daps Tour, Skully's felt like Yeezus sounds: dark, dazed, hedonistic and breathlessly humid. It was a devastatingly potent party mix, as emotionally draining as it was physically taxing — hopeless, nihilistic body music for a generation that traded its souls for Facebook profiles.

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