Chali 2na @ Wardrobe LeedsChali 2na @ Wardrobe LeedsChali 2na is one of the most easily identifiable and respected MCs in the game; any hip-hop head will instantly perk up at the first syllable spoken in the Chicago rapper’s deep, recognisable voice. His work with Jurassic 5 has allowed him to develop and maintain a stellar reputation amongst fans and peers, and his solo work and collaborations are always enjoyable. 2na’s reputation extends into the live circuit, with J5 tearing down shows and festivals around the world, keeping their legacy growing and name alive. He touches down in Leeds, after a great selection of live hip-hop coming to the city last year, ready to rock.

Backed by Canadian production duo The Funk Hunters, who warmed the crowd up as Chali let the Leeds crowd know he’s in the building, even if we couldn’t see him yet. They drop funky, bass driven tracks, flipping a variety of hip-hop acapellas, and their onstage chemistry is energised, which also goes for the music filling the packed Wardrobe dance-floor.

Chali 2na joined on stage, instantly setting the room alight with his signature melodic, percussive delivery which is perfectly crafted with complex, aligning syllables. It was clear from the get go that 2na is an MC in the truest sense of the word; playing just as much of a host to the hard-hitting, modern production of The Funk Hunters as he does showcasing his skills lyricist. As the Chi-town MC dropped bars from Outspoken, it was amazing how his witty, perfectly precise flow was delivered so effortlessly; his bars were like an extension of his very being with their pace and fluidity. Exuding skill and charisma as he dropped Comin’ Thru, the Wardrobe were hanging onto every word from one of the most unique voices in rap music. 2na kept the energy level at a constant high, and the vibe unequivocally fun with an expertly delivered set that showed experience in leaps and bounds, and the versatility on display too was incredibly impressive.

The Funk Hunters killed their first instrumental section of the show, dropping bangers laced with face tearing kick drums and screwface inducing drops, mixed skilfully and spliced with a few classic rap acapellas. 2na dropped bars from his collaboration with Talib Kweli Lock Shit Down, and it was obviously apparent that no matter the tempo or the vibe, his powerful and ear-catching delivery stood out; throughout the show Chali never missed a beat or a drop, with a flawlessly structured set keeping the energy levels at a constant high. The J5 MC recited his lyrics with pace, but always matched it with clarity and precision. As Step Yo Game Up and Oh Shit thundered through The Wardrobe, 2na’s sublime crowd control was on full display, moving and grooving to the beat with the audience following suit.

Of course no crowd was going to be satisfied without some Jurassic 5 tunes, and 2na obliged with dope run throughs of Freedom, Jayou and Jurass Finish First, and the old school vibe was just as enjoyable and entertaining as the uptempo, up-to-date approach of the earlier part of the show. 2na also impressed with a session over Grandmaster Flash’s classic The Message. The vibe was switched up again as Chali kicked to some Drum n Bass with a halftime swagger after an exuberant instrumental set from The Funk Hunters. The genre bending continued for a couple more tunes before the ‘end of the show’. Of course Chali and The Hunters weren’t done yet though; 2na kicked a freestyle session, even bringing out one of the Hunters to spit a verse, before closing out on the Jurassic 5 anthem What’s Golden.

Seeing Chali 2na live was completely different from hearing a J5 album, or a solo project from the Chi-town spitter; The Funk Hunters added a completely new ingredient, and 2na sounded as natural and fluid on their energetic, glitch-hop production as he does on the classic hip-hop style he and Jurassic 5 are known for. If they make a stop in your town, be sure to get down; it’s far better than a night in with the box or on Netflix.

Review by Sam Bennett