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Colin Smith/the Gauntlet

Rolling like a Red Army train

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Being on tour for eight months will make a person do two things: miss home and think.

As DJ Vadim nurses a Corona while getting comfortable on the couch, he states the obvious when asked how the tour is going,

"I've been on tour since August," he said. "I'm about ready to go home."

The Russian-born, London-residing DJ/Producer has been on tour with fellow musicians Scratch Pervert, DJ First Rate and singer/songwriter Yarah Bravo promoting Vadim's latest offering, The Art of Listening, on Ninja Tune. Although the journey has been long (and won't finish until June) the trio, known as The Russian Percussion, have enjoyed travelling from such cultural hubs as Tokyo to the back country of Thunder Bay, leaving hip-hop heads with some well needed neck exercise.

Spending that much time away from home and seeing four to five different cities a week has got Vadim thinking about the state of music.

"I think it's a sad time for music in general." And hip-hop is no exception. "Hip-hop is dead, and it has been for a long time now."

As a producer trained to recognize talent, Vadim sees the decline of hip-hop mostly in terms of a decline of the Emcee. Vadim has high standards and thinks that a good Emcee should not be limited by language barriers.

"I look for so many things in an Emcee: flow, originality, individuality, creativity, lyrics, delivery, voice," he says. "I look at all of that before I even think about what language they rhyme in."

Vadim stresses this point because of his continuing collaboration with artists from all over the globe. For example, The Art of Listening is actually the translation of the title single, "L'art d'ecouter," a collaboration with French crew TTC.

The Emcee is the essential element of hip-hop music because it is through the Emcee that the message of a song is communicated. Vadim believes that if a song has a message, it should not matter if the rhymes are in English, German, French or Spanish. Someone somewhere will hear it and understand it.

To hear hip-hop in its truest form, Vadim urges people to listen to the founders: Melle Mel, Spoonie Gee, Rakim, KRS One and he finds it hard to believe that hip-hop has not evolved since those days of fat laces, block parties and battle raps.

"Melle Mel at his best, I don't think anyone today could beat him," says Vadim. "He is a complete Emcee just as Ali was a complete athlete. I mean, listen to the Clipse and tell me that 15 years on after the first Eric B/Rakim album they still cannot rap as good as Rakim can. There's a lot of dodgy stuff coming out now and at the end of the day most of the people that are listening to these radio stations and buying these hip-hop records; they won't be doing that in five years time."

So when looking for some good hip-hop, heed the words of a man that knows and look past the radio stations, past the new release rack, past the Billboard charts and pick up a classic: KRS One, Melle Mel, Rakim, Slick Rick, Run DMC or pick up something from an artist that has no misconceptions about where hip-hop is going like DJ Vadim.

Despite his displeasure about where hip-hop is now, Vadim leaves us all with a glimmer of hope saying, "hip-hop is dead and that's a shame. But it's got to move on. It needs to die so that something new might come out of it. Things need to die before they can be reborn."

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