We’re very grateful to the nice people from Youthclub Sound for reviewing this gig for us. Check out their podcast (the links are at the bottom of the page), if you’re a fan of left-field hip hop, electronica and grime, it’s a bit of a must. Big things to come from that lot, that’s for sure.
Whether you’re a fan of his music or not, you have to give Skepta the plaudits he deserves for his work rate alone. After crossing the proverbial pond and making a rather sizeable splash on the other side, he’s come back home and picked up where he left off – selling out shows in every city he visits. And if the ridiculous amount of gigs he’s been playing up and down the country has been taking a toll on his stamina and passion for what he does, then it certainly wasn’t showing at the O2 academy in Sheffield this Halloween.
By the time Skepta’s performance was upon us the audience had been sufficiently warmed up by D Double E and David Rodigan, to the point where there was an audible buzz around the room – and not a spare shoulder width of space in the whole venue. For the next hour Skepta proceeded to justify his position at the helm of UK rap music with back to back bangers from the early more raw days of grime, up to his more recent internationally co-signed and successful tracks like ‘Shutdown’. The appeal of his hook-based joints was proven by the fact that at points you could barely hear the man with the microphone over the entire audience screaming his lyrics.
With the frontman of grime seemingly not slowing down and the likes of Krept and Konan, Stormzy and Section Boyz gathering more and more momentum as the days go by UK rap music looks like it might truly be ready to do what it’s been threatening to for so long now – get the worldwide recognition it deserves.
Skepta – Top Boy
With arguably the nation’s most en-vogue artist holding down the O2’s main room, upstairs was a more spacious and arguably far more cultured affair. Soulection (https://twitter.com/Soulection) are a collective/ record label out of California with a roster that exudes innovation and eclecticism. Associated with cutting edge musicians like Kaytranada and Goldlink, while releasing music from the likes of Sango, Esta and Ta-Ku, since 2011, the label have been gathering pace and inspiring a movement worldwide. On Halloween it was all about Europe as they brought three guys from London, Wales and Amsterdam respectively to provide an alternative to those less inclined to grime.
The first of these was East London MC and producer Jay Prince: a musical purest, seemingly immune to the Boy Better Know effect. With a string of free releases (the most recent being the mixtape BeFor Our Time http://beforourtime.com/), Jay is making waves for his RnB/ funk inspired approach to both rapping and beatmaking – a real rarity in the current UK scene. He came out in front of a sparsely populated but fiercely supportive crowd, backed by Ralph Hardy – presenter of Nang Selection on Radar Radio, and performed a quick-fire romp through pretty much all of his released material. Although stopping regularly to say ‘you lot a sick’ I did get the impression that Jay, and rightly so, felt like he deserved more heads to look out upon. To tuck one of the country’s most promising, multi-talented musicians away in an upstairs room, while a couple of thousand kid wiled out to David Rodigan OBE was an absolute travesty.
It was a main stage performance from a headline- worthy act, but time and place dictated that the energy levels just weren’t there. It certainly won’t be the last time that I watch him perform.
I also got a chance to sit down for a short interview with Jay, which will be aired on next weeks Youth Club Sounds Podcast https://soundcloud.com/youth_club
Jay Prince – Afrophunk