Boston's Berklee College of Music boasts several impressive firsts in their curriculum. It was the first to include jazz improvisation, and later the first to incorporate the electric guitar. In 1994, it was the first music school to embrace another instrument: the turntable.
The school was a fitting venue then for Milestones 2006, sponsored by Numark, Akai and Alesis on September 22 at Boston's Berklee Performance Center. Celebrating musical innovation, the award show/talent showcase was hosted by Fab 5 Freddy, a pioneer who became the face of mainstream hip-hop as host of YO! MTV Raps. “Hip-hop was created by teenagers back in the '70s who were angry and could have been throwing bricks,” Freddy says. “Instead, they got creative. It's so special for me to be at Berklee, to see people do what you're not supposed to do. Since I was a young teen, it just felt right. It felt wrong, too, but sometimes wrong is right.”
Many of the artists honored also subscribe to the wrong-is-right ethos, eschewing the rules of established music performance and production. The Alchemist presented DJ Premier with the Music Production Innovation Award, gushing that getting to know “Prem” had been like an aspiring actor getting the chance to hang out with Al Pacino. Freddy echoed praise for Premier and Marley Marl: “Hip-hop is like a skyscraper now, and if you took those cats out, the building would not be standing.”
His statement could have applied to any of the artists on hand. Accepting his award for Music Production, Marl refocused the praise on those who influenced him, citing Grand Wizard Theodore. Later in the evening, Theodore was honored with a DJ Innovation Award along with GrandMixer DXT, Jazzy Jay and Jazzy Joyce.
Living legends performed, including the white-haired and ever eccentric organist, Al Kooper (Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix). Mike Phillips later earned some of the loudest applause of the night during a tribute to saxophonist Michael Brecker using his “magic stick,” a Akai EWI4000S electronic wind controller.
The evening culminated in a tribute to DJ Jam Master Jay of Run-DMC, who was honored posthumously with the Lifetime DJ Innovation Award. The rowdy audience was quickly silenced when DMC made a surprise appearance to present the award, but Roc Raida got everyone riled up again as only a DMC World Champion could, scratching an energetic cut up of Run-DMC classics.
“Something's wrong with that guy!” Freddy raved following the performance. But sometimes wrong is right.