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Classic. We hear the word thrown around so much that we’ve become immune to the actual definition. At the risk of sounding like the “Y’all don’t nothing about ! When we were growing up we had ,” contingent, when it comes to music patrons of the last 20 years, that phrase will be quite appropriate.  Like us, this generation will have plenty of hits to sift through, time will ultimately determine if a song has reached that stature. As an experienced observer, here’s how you’ll be able to discern the difference. When you hear a song from your past that was a hit, you’ll remember the period the song was hot. When it’s a classic you can’t remember a time the song wasn’t hot!

Steven Standard, who lists a few of his artistic merits as musician, producer, composer and DJ, melded all of his talents, in addition to a keen street sense of a kid from the Farragut Projects in Brooklyn to create a work that has withstood that test of time and continues to garner momentum. Thirty-five years later, Standard, professionally known as Strafe, has a dance floor/roller rink staple that gets the party started right and quickly with the anthem “Set It Off.” It was a closing of one door that necessitated the song’s creation. “I was talking to an A&R at an independent label and he told me that my music had a sound that was radio accessible, his smaller label couldn’t compete with the larger labels for radio play. He advised me to shift gears and come back with something for the streets. If the streets play it, radio would have to play it.” Telling a Brooklyn kid, a dee jay at that, to get street?! Cake!! Says Strafe: “When that was proposed to me, I had to go into my dee jay head and appease the aesthetic of a dee jay. That helped me to focus on the design of moving an audience and keeping them through the night.” He continues, “My first dee jay premonition was setting the foundation, so the beat had to click with the moment. I wanted to have something that was cinematic in sound so that it could play in the large clubs, but also the hometown heroes, the mobile dee jays on the street level with the deep sub woofers and tweeter boxes.”

By appealing to the street sensibilities, “Set It Off,” described by Strafe as a utilitarian work, has managed to tap the souls of millions globally through the original as well as being one of the most sampled recordings ever created. There still remains work to be done as an artist, he feels.

“I hope to open up another channel for the way we communicate, because I believe that the gift of expressing music and art comes with responsibility in the words and ideas that we share in terms of how as a community we feed each other, communicate with each other and inspire each other to be there for each other. The music industry has steered away from those progressive artworks: I have a series of pieces that I want to release or unleash that offer on my HeartSoul label.”

Until those songs hit the block, Strafe can still be seen live onstage. His next performance finds him as an integral piece of “Forever Freestyle 13” concert. Lehman Center for the Performing Arts and Goya Foods in association with Sal Abbatiello of Fever Records will present for the 13th year in a row, “Forever Freestyle 13” on Saturday, March 16, at 8 p.m.  The concert will also feature performances by TKA, Judy Torres, George Lamond, Rob Base, Johnny O, Cynthia, Noel, Coro, Nayobe, Aly-Us, Sammy Zone and Tonasia.  

Over and out. Holla next week. Til then, enjoy the nightlife.

Lehman Center for the Performing Arts is on the campus of Lehman College/CUNY at 250 Bedford Park Boulevard West, Bronx, NY 10468.  Tickets for “Forever Freestyle 13” are $100, $65, $60, and $55 and can be purchased by calling the Lehman Center box office at 718-960-8833 (Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m., and beginning at 4 p.m. on the day of the concert), or through online access at www.LehmanCenter.org. Lehman Center is accessible by the No. 4 or D train to Bedford Park Blvd. and is off the Saw Mill River Parkway and the Major Deegan.