2010 SIFF

They’ve Got the Fever

SIFF documentary by Seattle filmmaker breaks down the early days of hip hop.

By Laura Dannen May 21, 2010

DJ Junebug

In the Bronx in the early 1980s, people had "the fever." They’d line up outside the club Disco Fever, all the way around the corner, just to hear "this Puerto Rican DJ with a big Afro named Junebug," Kurtis Blow recalls. It was the old-school days of hip hop, and DJ Junebug was one of the best. But his time at the top was brief, thanks to his side job as a drug dealer, and the documentary short by local filmmaker Travis Senger, White Lines and The Fever: The Death of DJ Junebug, dissects the tragic fall of a DJ from his podium.

Based on Mark Skillz’s article "When The Fever Was The Mecca," published in Wax Poetics, the film has already won a Special Jury Prize at SXSW and Grand Jury Prize at Tribeca. Before it screens tomorrow at SIFF as part of the Northwest Connections program starting at 4:30pm, we asked co-writer/director Senger to weigh in on the music he now knows best.

What do you think of Seattle’s current hip-hop scene? How does it compare to the early days in the Bronx?

The early period of hip hop involved a lot of ingenuity without a lot of resources. I mean, these guys had to literally hunt down a sound system to spin on; the MCs would rap over existing records and work the songs and their rhymes into a single performance. They were hungry and they built off each other—some times through competition, some times through collaboration. The circumstance, environment, and timing lead to a lot of innovation. Over the years, we’ve seen people take that innovation to new places. That is the challenge and that is what’s still happening, in Seattle, and all over.

That said, I like what I see and I’ve heard about Seattle hip hop in the last year. Many people say it’s as strong as it’s ever been. That’s exciting.

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