Yes, it's true: an actual rap show took place in London, and it was an actual success. Earlier this week at XOYO in Shoreditch, a slow-building crowd of 300 people were treated to five hours of electronic-licked hip-hop beats and taut bars; the future of underground UK rap culture was put on display for all to see and hear. The event's headliner, New Jersey's Da$H, and Chynna from Philly, were the only perceptible differences here. The main takeaway from the night was the now non-distinct lines between the style and culture of our special guests, and those representing our shores.
Show opener, Denzel Himself, loped on-stage and threw back a seemingly timid and quiet manner when conversing with his fans and potential new ones, only to reveal a surprisingly captivating performer. If the south London native can keep the material coming, he could very well become a major contender in this new wave. Chynna from Philadelphia also impressed, tearing up the stage with a set that included online hits, "Glen Coco" and "Free Crack". The lyrical beast inside this beauty showed up, showed out, and put her in our thoughts as a tough act to follow.
ItsNate, though, he had it in the bag as soon as he dropped his first 16. Representing north London, Nate, who's been a member of LDN's cool-rap clique for a minute now, presented a memorable set by successfully tackling bass-laden trap beats with an almost grime-like flow (now-cult classic, 2013's "Savage", set the place alight), and his 15 minutes ended rightfully in rapturous applause.
Mcabre Brothers stepped up not long after, alongside Trellion, Sniff, and Milkavelli—who recently branched off from his Piff Gang cohorts—and they did exactly what it says on the tin. The drug-loving lyrical lads brought the ruckus and, in fairness, looked a state that more or less validated all lyrical content. But that’s authenticity, for you. Unlike ItsNate's claps and shouts of "brap", Mcabre Brothers and co.'s 15 minutes ended in one big mosh-pit—which, no doubt, they would've appreciated more anyway.
Next-in-line was Space Age's Little Simz, and, considering how high her star has risen in recent months, she could have (should have?) headlined the show, quite easily. I'll be totally honest, though: I’ve had my reservations about the worthiness of her buzz. I needed to see what the fuss was all about in a live setting, and so, after entering the void and seeing Simz "Devour" some tricky, trippy riddims like a vet with limitless energy, the only verdict needed is that this young lady is a certified microphone champ, one who could out-rap most bar-throwing brothas on their best day.
Just after midnight, Da$H strolled out in a haze and immediately launched into "Swordfish" from his debut mixtape, V.I.C.E.S, and was clearly taken aback by his lyrics being recited word-for-word to him on the other side of the Atlantic. Truth is, these kids weren’t supposed to know about a young rapper from a New Jersey hood with one solo mixtape to his name, but, really, the internet has given us all an incredible vantage point: our ears can be on the streets of the States or Stockholm at the same time as Shoreditch, and this just helps with sourcing international versions of the same common interests.
At this point, you’d be forgiven for thinking the words "rap" and "show" set off a database alarm in the Mayor’s Office with a list of cancellation procedures for the police, so, London, you'll be pleased to hear there’ll be more An Actual Rap Show events to come.
Words by Tobi Oke (@TefTobz)
Photography: Elliot Simpson