For many urban blacks, the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States signified the epitome of crossover achievement. The infusion of culturally inclusive African-American style into mainstream popular culture feels like the harbinger of a brand new time. You remember this era’s precedent, a moment best defined by German producer Harold Faltermeyer’s handling of a minor key synth progression making Eddie Murphy into an iconic film legend. Add in some body rolling and questionable fashion choices from 30 years ago? The spotlights of the past meet the floodlights of the present here. Axel F is not just a showcase of music, but possibly one of America’s most ultimate showcases of the universal crossover potential of African-American excellence.
Ex-Washington Post journalist and now full-time deejay Rhome “DJ Stylus” Anderson refers to the party as “a mix of ‘lazer boogie,’ ‘Jheri curl funk’ and ‘champagne soul.'” It’s a celebration of the storm of post-disco crossover R & B, Detroit techno and the Minneapolis sound’s early 80s takeover. Kevin Saunderson, Juan Atkins and Derrick May’s down tempo electro funk was a staple of so many pop radio crossover hits of the era. Furthermore, you can’t tell the story of the 80s without Teena Marie, Prince, Morris Day, Jimmy Jam or Terry Lewis. Stylus continues, “I was hanging out one day with (fellow Axel F resident deejays) Jahsonic and Adrian Loving, and we realized that there were so many classic R & B jams that nobody really played out anymore. We wanted to change that, and for the past year I think we have.”
Saturday night’s first anniversary event filled Liv, a classed up juke joint on the famous corner of 11th and U Streets, NW, to extreme capacity. The highlight wasn’t the just the music, but the appearance of something more. Sexual Chocolate. No, Randy Watson (and his powder blue tuxedo) weren’t exhumed from our collective memories of classic Eddie Murphy film Coming to America. However, an all-star band dressed in 80s themed costumes and tore the house down. Grammy-award winning member of the Foreign Exchange Soundsystem Phonte did don the iconic Jheri curl wig and play alongside indie soul favorite Zo! on keyboards, vocalists Deborah Bond, N’Digo Rose (shirtless while wearing a double-breasted blazer) and Nea Posey, guitarist Zach Cutler and a plethora more. Contemplating the amazing sight of a live band playing The Deele’s “Shoot ‘Em Up Movies”or hearing a cover of Cherelle and Alexander O’Neal’s “Saturday Love” and think “they don’t make em like this anymore?” Saturday night was JUST for you.
Standing in a dark corner, it was impossible to not want to boogie into the middle of the dance floor on time to the bassline of Stevie Wonder’s “Do I Do.” Janet Jackson’s “What Have You Done For Me Lately?” A gigantic hit for any era. Slowing things down for Keith Sweat? Still the ultimate romantic cure for seeing a cutie in a side-ponytail, headband and legwarmers from across the room. As if living and excelling in an amazing future isn’t enough, combining it with gems of an also beautiful past is arguably the ultimate party for the ultimate time.