Our very own Panza Ink attended this show last night….an interesting review ensues.
I booked tickets for last nights show at the HMV Forum over six months ago. DOOM, Madlib, J-Rocc, Jneiro Jarel, Jehst, Dels, Kutmah, Illum Sphere. Heck of a line-up. This was going to be big, Soundcrash were billing it as the hip-hop show of the decade.
We arrived just as Jehst was wrapping up his set and it was one of my main regrets of the night that we didn’t catch the whole thing. I know he’s supposed to be a bit of a prima-donna but he’s a real talent, and for my money one of the best our little island has contributed to the world of hip-hop.
Next up was Dels. Now as fellow Kingston Arts alumni, I can’t be too harsh, but he needs to improve his stage presence a great deal. I’ve never seen a lonelier performer despite being the only act using actual musicians. It was also at this point I realised that the Forum sounds truly awful. The acoustics are shocking and the system is beyond wonky.
In came Kutmah to save the day though. Banger followed banger, relentlessly. Each track only being allowed a maximum 90 seconds then ruthlessly replaced by a superior one. Along with his legendary status comes his professionalism and superior taste and knowledge. Always on point whether he plays oldies or unreleased material, they guy just knows his craft.
DOOM followed Kutmah’s extended DJ set and out he came in the must-have hip-hop accessory this autumn – a massive orange hi-vis coat! The crowd went mental, but this was followed by a curious hush as we all tried to work out if it was really him – after all, imposters have been known to spring up. He was certainly the right shape – his beautifully vast stomach bulging beneath his XXXL orange camouflaged t-shirt, and after the first couple of bars I was certain. His set was great, and he looked like he was enjoying himself, occasionally pirouetting in excitement. The unique thing with DOOM is his sense of humour, it’s a refreshing tonic to those in the art-form that are crippled by their self-consciousness and attempt to hide their chipped shoulders with aggression and self-pity. Even when his lyrics aren’t at their usual thought provoking and narrative best, he still projects an image of a guy that doesn’t take himself that seriously, which I imagine comes in handy if you’re a 40-something overweight black guy in a mask. Even the shoddy sound didn’t stop the crowd demanding an encore, which they got, and a second, which they didn’t, but instead received a message of love and appreciation. Class.
I’m afraid it’s all downhill from here though dear reader…
Madlib’s set wasn’t quite as bad as discovering the news about Jimmy Saville’s antics over the last 50 years. Instead it was more like seeing the star of everyone’s favourite time-travelling trilogy, Michael J Fox post-Parkinson’s for the first time: heart-breaking.
Firstly he didn’t spit a bar, the closet thing we got to any raps were low, incomprehensible mumblings. Fine I thought, this is Madlib after all – he’s a hell of a lot more than just a rapper. Hearing him play rare disco was fine too, despite the heavy hip-hop vibe permeating the line-up. Instead, it was the completely bizarre DJ techniques implemented by the great man – turning the bass down every 10 seconds, or cutting out the sound completely for long periods – that broke my heart. Yes, he dropped a brand new Madlib/Mos Def beat, but what the hell was he doing!? This is the same man who the great J Dilla heard had used his beats for his own mixtape, and instead of suing him in the usual American fashion, asked if he could work with him. They made ‘Champion Sound’ for Christ’s sake! I couldn’t take it. I must have pleaded with my better half at least 8 times to leave during the 45-minute nightmare. And I wasn’t the only one, as well as clearing about 500 heads from the dance floor, promoters and artists a-like kept going up to him, presumably asking him if he had had a stroke. To make it even worse, some bright spark had decided to put him centre-stage and illuminate him with spotlights.
Finally J-Rocc wrestled the turntables away from Madlib and out came Freddie Gibbs. He had his work cut out following Madlib’s horrifying car crash. He toiled away, but his act was clichéd and wasn’t going to make those who had bought tickets hoping to hear the conscious side of hip hop walk away with satisfied lugholes. His constant repetition of “F**k the police!” was met with youthful vigour but I got the impression Freddie hadn’t based this proclamation on his discovery of the criminal inquiry into the apocryphal police actions at Hillsborough… it’s just cool, right? There was also the cringe inducing way that every time he used the N-word (which he used a lot) a sea of pasty white arms would wave about in approval. I’m getting old I realised, or at least I’ve out grown live rap shows.
We left after Freddie’s third song – we could stand no more. McDonalds beckoned.
Did you go? Let us know your thoughts…