Review: Trinidad James, Flatbush Zombies toast the Skatepark of Tampa at the Cuban Club in Tampa
There was a point in Trinidad James’ headlining set on Saturday night at the Cuban Club where at least a couple dozen people from the crowd overran the stage and proceeded to bounce along to All Gold Everything, making it nearly impossible to decipher exactly who was performing and who was just up there having a ridiculously good time. James – whose real name is Nicholas Williams – even lost some jewelry in the joyful fracas.
“Ay, I lost my chain,” he said over the mic, “if you find it, please give it back.”
All the while, everyone one else wore huge smiles on their faces as security escorted them offstage. That scene, in a nutshell, summed up the madness that is the traditional concert during the Skatepark Of Tampa’s Tampa Am weekend.
Since Wednesday, hordes of skateboarders from across the globe have convened on SPoT to take part in one of the country’s most revered amateur tournaments, and on Saturday night – after watching each other compete in street qualifiers and the best trick competition – those athletes and scores of their friends took their collective energy (and the buzz they earned at SPoT’s open bar earlier) to Ybor City for a free show that can only be described as one wild party.
As DJs kept the Club’s cantina filled with the sound of dancehall, reggae and hip hop, New York-based avant-punk duo Unstoppable Death Machines used their curiously danceable bass lines and strange almost Bane-esque microphone masks to coerce the already energized crowd into a swirling mosh pit. The Death Machines’ strange, psychedelic blend of speed metal, noise, and rock was a heady way to kick things off, but the collective push of the audience towards the stage after the band ended their set was indicative of the evening’s most anticipated act – Flatbush Zombies.
Hailing from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Flatbush, this trio of friends have somehow coalesced their love of pro wrestling, Happy Days, and the Doobie Brothers into an undeniably potent brand of rap music inspired by an odd list of influences that includes Buju Banton, Dumbo the elephant, and even Arthur Fonzarelli. The eclectic, eccentric nature of their stomping grounds – a community that boasts a large Caribbean immigrant population – subtly makes an impression on marijuana and acid-fueled, deeply cerebral cuts like MRAZ, Palm Trees, and Bliss.
The group utilizes beats from other producers, but the majority of their production happens in DIY fashion at the hands of Zombies’ Erick Elliot, and while you’ll definitely find lyrics about sex, drugs, and other nefarious undertakings, the Zombies also address topics like racism, poverty, and family values with a potency and poignancy that can make you believe that there are more than a few good reasons to have fans rapping back the words and spending hours on the internet nitpicking over lyrics and samples.
After the Zombies’ encore ended, and by the time Trinidad James took to the bandshell to deliver a short, hit-filled set, the bodies at the Cuban Club were in full celebration mode with hands up and enjoying the inherently Floridian warm December night. It was hard not to get sucked into the revelry and communal vibe that dominated the courtyard that evening, and in a world where skateboarding is still scene as an alternative sport and rappers like James and the Zombies might be frowned upon and misunderstood, it was nice to stand amongst a crowd that supports each other, the music they love, all while adhering to an ethos that seems to embrace hard work and hard partying. Hell, someone even found James’ chain before the night was over.
“Much respect to the real (expletive) that returned my chain,” he said in an appreciative Twitter message just after midnight, “TAMPA WAS SO TURNT!!!!!!! Thank you for my blessing.”
After the hangovers and accolades from Tampa Am weekend have come and gone, it’s safe to say that SPoT’s long-running, big ol’ storied celebration of their sport is a major blessing too.
-- Ray Roa, tbt*