I’m sunk deep into this London Midland train seat at 11.51pm. My lower body is aching all over with a suspected twisted left ankle and slightly extended right knee. My Illa State Records t-shirt is drenched with not just mine, but other peoples sweat and water, causing it to uncomfortably stick to my body. It’s a somewhat salty situation.
Determined to find a position of ease, I attempt a casual lean against the train window. However upon immediate contact my right shoulder cries out in agony and I weirdly get a sharp pain around my Leslie apple…
I could write for hours on the pain I’m encountering, but in truth – it’s a complete contradiction to how I’m feeling. With each injury I discover, my smile seems to get wider. In fact, from looking around, I think I might just be the happiest person on this train right now…
Reason being, I was one of the lucky few who managed to snag tickets to the impromptu Konnichiwa tour. I say lucky because not only did it sell out, but this was also his first show in the UK since the launch of the album.
One of my favourite shots taken by the talented @AshleyVerse
Needless to say, it was wait for it, wait for it…….. Legendary. I’m talking Watch The Throne type levels. Anyone who knows me, knows that was even hard for me to type. But I cannot deny what I have just experienced!
One of the main contributing factors was the super lit crowd, which I was proud to be apart of. Upon entry I could feel the energy and love they were giving to Stormzy’s official DJ – TiiNY. Beneath me the ground was shaking from both the bass but more from the erratic jumping and movement of the people. As we got closer to the action I glanced at my watch and it confirmed it was only 8pm. With Big Fris not on till 9, this certified the beginning of a special night…
Just over an hour had passed and after a barrage of absolute bangers, we were appropriately warmed up. Next on is DJ Maximum, who naturally gravitates towards the decks and begins his prep for the supporting set. There’s a few cheers from the hardcore BBK fans, which was reminiscent of the reaction Nacho Followill gets when he sound checks for Kings of Leon.
Tick-tock the clock strikes 9.13 on the dot and the BBK stalwart that is Frisco appears. His signature flow and raw delivery radiates throughout the venue as he performs tracks off his new mixtape – System Killa.Which by the way if you’re a fan of grime, then I seriously recommend checking out, you will not be disappointed!
Surprisingly he’s only on for 20minutes, but again he manages to pick up where TiiNY left off, and leaves us now on fire after a scorching set. The main highlight being the track Funny, which sparked the first of what seemed like an omnipresent mosh pit!
By this point the venue’s packed, we feel unstoppable and there’s nothing that can tame us…. Or so we thought! A mysterious warm voice pours out of the speakers and envelopes KOKO. Accompanied by the zen-like soundtrack of lapping water and duelling samurai swords, it was unmistakably Fifi Rong singing the intro – ‘looking for meee……..Konnichiwa‘.
Everyone around me quickly scrambles to find their video device for the night and as if practiced – raises their hands in synchronisation. It was at this precise moment 3 thoughts popped into my head:
1. Generation Y in full effect
2. Wish I was little bit taller than 5ft 10.
3. SKEPTA is officially a superstar. Hes not just that local London boy anymore, whether he likes it or not he’s transcended that image and become something greater. To witness that type of crowd reaction, similar to something I see when a big U.S artist comes over, such as Kanye, J.cole or Kendrick was a moment of clarity!
The sirens ring out and in perfect timing Skepta runs up on stage to execute the opening track. It becomes impossible to stand still, moshpits opening and closing left, right and centre. You have no choice but to be at one with the raging sea of people. Either move with the current of the crowd or crash into wave after wave of displaced gun finger toting fans. I love it! It’s raw. It’s grimey. It’s passion. It’s in the moment..
The signature sonic blips of That’s Not Me are flawlessly mixed into the outro of Konnichiwa and the first of many great guest appearances occurs. JME springs on to stage and spits “from day one i said I was seriousss” and the crows erupts!
He goes back to back with his brother before Maximum swiftly moves it on to what Skepta dubbed as his ‘old school’ tracks; Ace Hood Flow and Same Shit Different Day. I say ‘dubbed’ because I was expecting something like ‘I spy’ or even ‘Doin it again’ but nevertheless the tracks banged and lead superbly into my new favourite track ‘Corn on the Curb’. The beat was as immense and greasy as I had hoped, however the best part of the performance was undoubtedly when Wiley appeared outta nowhere as if he was Randy Orton. His presence initially stuns but then RKO’s the crowd, as he delivers the chorus and adlibs as Skepta goes off on one.
For those that watched to the end you would have heard the intro to Crime Riddim which was up next. In all honesty I wasn’t a big fan of this track, but hearing it live changed my perception – it wreaked havoc and perfectly laid the foundation for one of the greatest Skepta songs of all time ‘It Aint Safe’.
Oh – my – word. There was pull up after pull up, it was one hell of a work out! I remember at one point literally gasping for air, but all I was breathing was this heavy humid sweaty smog. I had to grab the shoulders of 2 separate people and propel myself up to intake as much fresh air as possible, before crashing back down and resuming with the madness.
No time to rest, next up on the setlist was the Devilman diss track ‘Nasty’ suitably followed by an appearance from the Grime beef King – Chip. He drops a rendition of Pepper Riddim and we go ape shit. But there’s another surprise in store, Shorty’s ‘what’s going on’ is mixed in and he’s joined on stage by Footsie and Big Fris. Which could only mean one thing: Detox is next! To put it simply; the dropping of this beat was synonymous with the screwing of my face. It’s disgustingly good.
The track reaches Jammer’s verse and he leaps on to stage with more energy than any man in the room, earning his first pull up of the night. To this day I still have no clue what an earth he was saying, but it must have been great because Skepta gave the crowd a little breather to share that his verse is top 3 features on the album.
Next up is Novelist who goes back to back with Skepta for ‘Lyrics’ and outshines him with his impressive verse. Continuing with this competitive nature, we get to one of my favourite parts of the night. DJ on decks and all mc’s fighting to ‘freestyle’ off one of the 3 mics in rotation. Some of the highlights were Skepta screaming “God forgive me if I buss my nine”, Chip taking it old school with “I am the grime scene saviour” and Jammer with the infamous “I’m a big man but I’m not 30” (even though I’m sure he’s now 33 LOL).
At this point I really had no clue how I was still standing. It’d been about an hour or so of nonstop moshpitting in ridiculously humid conditions with not one single drop of water. Running purely off adrenaline I was now at the point where I’m happy to rest my head in the guy in fronts armpit just to catch a break.
Luckily the next track lined up was ‘Ladies Hit Squad’ which was a lot more mellow than the bombardment of bangers that had ensued. However the one and only Grime general that is D Double E casually walked onto stage and the place exploded.
Budubupup, It’s Auhh Auhhhh.
Just when you think the energy levels couldn’t get any higher, a shirtless Solo 45 bounds onto stage which only means one thing:
MENTAL. The place is turned upside down. Mosh pit bigger than ever before. People crowd surfing. Arm in arm singing with strangers. There’s 20 man on stage. I’m spinning in the middle of the pit with both hands to the air. It’s just surreal. I recall my face being literally 3 inches from the ground but managing to grab onto someone to save a major face plant. What a moment. But what a track. Massive shoutout to Preditah – the way the bassline reverberated around the room was literally, I repeat literally breathtaking.
Again I got to shout out the incredible crowd and the mosh pit ‘etiquette’ I not only witnessed but was twice apart of. Whenever a person went down, whether it be from being dashed to the floor, tripping up, collapsing or just tying ones shoe lace, there would be a group of people, unbeknownst to each other who would immediately form a protective shield over that person till they got up. Now bearing in mind what I wrote about the crowd being a rough sea and moving with the current, this is a pretty brave thing to do and something which I was initially shocked to witness. With everyone seeming to be in their best roadman attire, it becomes so easy to stereotype, but the truth is, there was such a great vibe to the night and the camaraderie between the fans was something I was proud to be apart of.
Getting back into it, at this point I am simply DEAD. In the words of Al Pacino, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”
‘Man Don’t Care’ drops and JME brings out the landlord Giggs to tear what’s left of the place down. By the end of these 2 tracks it feels like I’ve died and been revived, with the main difference being – I’m now shirtless.
A short break ensues to give the crowd time to catch their breath, but before we know it, the words “Trusss mi daddy” ring out the speakers. It’s official – KOKO IS SHUTDOWN. Experiencing this track live was something else, but the highlight has to be when JME presented a plaque to his brother to certify Shutdown as GOLD (surpassing 400k sales). Skepta gave a quick speech and sent out a heartfelt thank you to everyone inside the venue for making this happen. It really brought home the feeling of the gig which was one of unadulterated celebration..
Following on from the speech and given there’s now about 40 man on stage, there’s really only one track befitting for the finale. “Man get money with the gang! Man get girls with the gang, Man eat food with the gang!”
It’s a fittingly powerful ending to the show. One which embodies the unofficial tagline ‘Independence Day‘. To paint the picture, everyone in the building is mobbing, from the people behind the bar to the kids in the rafters. The stage is decorated with all the grime mc’s you’d ever hope to see in a lifetime, with BBK proudly standing on the frontline showcasing their strength. It’s symbolic of the way they’ve pioneered this genre and forged a new path. I stand back to take it all in, and come to the absolute conclusion that this Grime movement we’ve followed as kids – has officially come to fruition.