DJ Premier and the Badder Band Montreal Jazz Fest Festival 2023 review

Montreal got a visit from hip hop royalty when DJ Premier played the Jazz Fest

“DJ Premier appeared to cut, scratch, beat-build and orchestrate his loyal troubadours the Badder Band as though it’s his own form of meditation.”

On July 1, one of hip hop music’s most notable architects, DJ Premier, accompanied by his loyal troubadours the Badder Band, took their place on stage for Saturday night’s headlining free show at the Montreal Jazz Fest.

By then the word was out that the show would go on following the passing of the storm, and Place des Festivals was once again the place to be. Sure, on a clear night there would have been double occupancy, but a sizeable a crowd no less filled the space in front of the stage all the way back to Ste-Catherine. 

Maybe there was a little more breathing room than would ordinarily have been available at Jazz Fest on a Saturday night, which was perfect for Preemo, who appeared to cut, scratch, beat-build and orchestrate his band as though it’s his own form of meditation. Or, as deep cut fans might say, in “Deep Concentration.”

DJ Premier at the Montreal Jazz Fest Festival
DJ Premier and the Badder Band at the 2023 Montreal Jazz Festival. Photos by Cindy Lopez

The Gang Starr co-founder is likely to be named a Top 5 producer on nearly any all-time list. His signature sound, topped by his unmistakable cutting and scratching skills, would have given the crowd enough to wrap their heads around had Premier spent 90 minutes simply DJing fan favourites from his own catalogue. 

But he could do that blindfolded. The challenge of arranging classic cuts in such a way as to breathe new life into them while also maintaining the familiar elements that make them classics to begin with is obviously a much more interesting prospect for a talent who hasn’t ever hit a slump over the course of nearly 35 years in hip hop’s often harshly critical public eye.

DJ Premier and the Badder Band Montreal Jazz Fest Festival 2023 review
A review of DJ Premier and the Badder Band at the Montreal Jazz Fest

The Badder Band, for their end of things, played with heart and confidence, covering Preemo-produced hits from Nas, KRS-One and, of course, the mighty Gang Starr, as well as a few other jazz and soul staples sampled through time by the guest of honour. 

While their chops qualify them for the job, they take up a little more space than they need to. But by that very token, their job is to entertain the type of festival crowd that may not know or even care about DJ Premier’s resumé or his legacy among hip hop royalty. 

When heavy rains started up again about an hour into the show and umbrellas went up, I for one was actually fortunate enough that from where I stood, my line of sight was obscured to everyone on stage except the master at work.

So if getting a little soggy was the price to pay for the moment of truth at a show that the hip hop gods (maybe with a little heavenly help from Guru, RIP) allowed to take place when it could easily have gone the other way, then may our cups, as they say, runneth over. ■

The Montreal International Jazz Festival continues through Saturday, July 8. For a full list of performers, schedules, venues and ticket information, please visit the festival’s website.

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