Review: Malbec and B-Boys at Rialtoe


If you see an older white Cambridge intellectual correcting someone who says “breakdancing” instead of “breaking,” or explaining how the term “hip-hop” dates back to the 1940s, chances are he or she attended “Expect the Unexpected” last Tuesday, an evening of boom-bap flair and Jody Adams flavor at the celeb chef’s heavily propped Charles Hotel high-grubbery, Rialto.

While Lino “Leanski” Delgado and his Floorlords crew warmed up behind curtains, I joined about 50 academics and assorted hip-hop fans and students for a three-course feast. Following the Hennessy-laced red velvet cake, hosts from the Harvard Hip-Hop Archive cherry-topped the evening with a casual lecture on dance movement from famed Philly choreographer Rennie Harris and an unprecedented in-restaurant Floorlords stampede.

After Harris had talked himself to happy tears about hip-hop, Boston’s top-skill DJ, Lazeboy, opened with one of his trademark scratch-tastic routines. A lot of people didn’t know what he was doing with those swift paws of his, but they knew it sounded fresh. Then came the Floorlords: one by one, two by two, three by three, and eventually all at once. As amazing as their aeronautics were, the true miracle was that no diners got their teeth kicked in. The encore — which featured Delgado, Harris, and Spanish Harlem legend Popmaster Fabel — was especially remarkable, with exalted stalwarts representing three historic scenes taking cues from one another.

Sure, the idea of Harvard cats getting schooled by a bunch of Boston kids is almost richer than Rialto’s deservedly renowned gnocchi. Yes, it’s voyeuristic to sip Malbec and enjoy a $100 prix fixe (not me — I jumped on the press list) while watching delegates from generation hip-hop spin around on their heads. But as someone who’s been marginalized for years as a writer, intellectual, and human being for preferring cold rhymes and bass lines to rock guitars and screeches, it’s nice to see overdue respect served up on silver platters.

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