Hank Shocklee, the Sugar Club 10/4/2015
Hank Shocklee is one of the members of Public Enemy associates and producers, the Bomb Squad. In the late 80s their chaotic and attention grabbing sound helped to influence and shape hip hop as we know it today. Since ChoiceCuts were able to book him for a DJ set, it was no surprise that a Q & A would take place also, considering the wealth of knowledge and experience that he has garnered over the years.
Before this could take place, the audience were treated to a screening of Prophets of Rage. This BBC documentary about Public Enemy details everything from their early beginnings to the controversies that eventually led to their downfall and demise. Opposing sides of stories are told, from the militant perspective of Griff to Flavor Flav’s colourful outlook on past events. The documentary also served as a basic introduction to P.E, allowing for the more detailed and exploratory questions to be kept for later on.
The Q & A which was hosted by Olan from All City Record shop, went into everything from early sampling techniques, to the equipment used, to what it was like to have so many musicians working on one project. Some producers are known for being introverts who become almost obsessed with their craft, but Hank is as outgoing and enthusiastic as they come. As expected, he is full of stories. My favourite being about Flavor Flav’s previous job of driving a bus full of children with cerebral palsy. Certain anecdotes would seem unbelievable if they hadn’t had come straight from someone who was there to witness it all.
Unfortunately I had to miss his DJ set. Coming one of the most influential producers of all time, we can assume it was great. The Q & A section of the night was most definitely the highlight. It is rare to come across a night as informative or inspiring. Due to the crowd’s reaction, we can hopefully expect more night’s like this with hip hop’s elite.
Ghostpoet, The Button Factory 1/4/2015
Despite the downtrodden nature of many of his tracks, Ghostpoet had no problem entertaining the Button Factory with vigour and enthusiasm while opening his current tour in Dublin. His past experiences of touring have paid off and gifted him with an obvious prowess for performing. For a set that runs well over 75 minutes, his smooth voice and high level of charisma never falter. While he may be the main attraction for the night, the accompanying band contributes just as much to the show as he does.
Each member of the band is as professional as they come. They amplify the sound of older tracks (‘Cash and Carry Me Home’) achieving a much bigger sound than the original recording. His keyboard player/backup singer assists him with a serene and reserved quality to her vocals. She replicates the voice of the female role on his current album, Shedding Skin, with a haunting perfection. It is often the new material that provides the most enthralling moments of the show.
It feels like there is an unspoken bond between him and his audience. One that allows tracks like ‘Sorry My Love, It’s You Not Me’ and ‘Yes I Helped You Pack’ to be performed with compassion, despite the deeply personal subject matters. He bares this weight with no burden, trusting in the crowd to be as receptive as they are. It’s clear that he is comfortable being at the helm of the show, always controlling the pace but never undermining the importance of musicians joining him on stage.
While there may be a slight reluctance to his showmanship at times, he is clearly thankful of the position that he is in. After an encore of ‘Lines’ he jumps into the crowd to embrace his fans. He makes an impression on everyone from the diehards to the casual gig goers, humbled by the full venue for a Wednesday night. A turnout like this can be expected with a truly personal and intimate showing like this from one of the U.K’s most unique artists.
Pharoahe Monch, the Sugar Club 14/3/15
Screening Dave Chappelle’s Block Party before a gig sets the standard pretty high for any headliner, regardless of who they are. This is because the crowd was (technically) warmed up by Dead Prez, Talib Kweli, Erykah Badu and The Fugees to name a few. However, Pharoahe Monch had no problem smashing this standard from the get go during this Sugar Club gig. He has the ability to do this because he somehow posses the energy of a rookie and the skills of a veteran. It results in a fantastic and entertaining showing from one of hip hop’s most underrated emcees.
He has been around for quite some time now, so the fact that he can deliver a captivating set that runs much longer than a lot of similar shows is no surprise. Having such reliable production to fall back makes for an incredibly consistent collection of tracks, with a variety of different sounds represented. Slower songs can sometimes be a rap gig’s downfall, with shoddily delivered hooks or a complete lack of interest from the crowd during the less upbeat selections. Pharoahe knows how to entertain regardless of tempo as he proved while singing along to the sombre hook of ‘Broken Again’.
The show isn’t perfect. Some of the crowd interaction feels like a routine, which no doubt it is, and there is the occasional mistake, but a hilarious Busta Rhymes impression and an Organized Konfusion encore can always make up for that. As far as the performance goes it is very hard to falter. It is admirable to see an emcee that doesn’t have to try too hard to win a crowd over, or rely on his most recognisable tracks to do so. He has a formula that has worked for years and will continue to if he maintains the sky high levels of passion and love that he clearly has for performing.
Jay Electronica, Whelan’s 12/3/15
Any time you talk about Jay Electronica, questions are raised as to whether the hype surrounding him is justified. This is mostly due to his unwillingness to drop a debut album despite having signed to Roc Nation five years ago. If this gig in Whelan’s is anything to go by, he has evidently been mastering the art of performing live. With pure showmanship and raw, undeniable talent on display, his set is 10 times larger than any other I have witnessed, despite being in somewhat intimate settings. The hype is most definitely justified and from the looks of things it will only continue to grow.
After yet another stellar opening set from Dah Jevu, with a full band in tow, massive applause erupted for the headliner. The audience were pleased to see the enigma that is Jay Electronica had actually graced Dublin with his presence. His voice instantly demands attention quite like no other artist, straight from the beginning with ‘Exhibit A’. Even when he invites most of the crowd onto the stage, he still keeps everyone somewhat contained and has them hanging on every word with his commanding vocals. Going acapella for almost half the set only stresses the importance of what he is saying and proves that he really is as good a lyricist as they come.
He also has no trouble asserting his position as people’s champion of the rap game by stopping to take pictures, taking song requests from audience members and then jumping into the crowd to rap the song to them. It is elements like this that make it far more personal than your average hip hop gig. He wants to take the time out to leave an impression on everyone in the room, even giving two people a chance to showcase their own skills, (one of them being Emzee A). They both had no problem proving their worth to everyone, including Jay, who seemed pleasantly surprised by both of their abilities to flow over ‘Shook Ones Part 2′.
If you were to view this show from the perspective of a veteran in hip hop, it would not only be intimidating but inspiring. Seeing a relative newcomer perform with such professionalism and awe inspiring skill would have to ignite something in even the most egotistical, self absorbed of rappers. Jay Z wanted to sign him as soon as he heard him rap and that is no surprise when he has the ability to put on a display like the one in Whelan’s tonight. Personally, I have never seen Jay Z live but I know he would have to do something pretty damn spectacular to top this.
Smoke DZA, The Sugar Club 10/2/15
After Hare Squead opened things up at the Sugar Club, which I missed unfortunately, Dah Jevu had no problem warming up the venue on a cold Tuesday night with a full band in tow providing a foreboding soundtrack for the set. Front men Bobby Basil and Tafari Pesto bellow dark and gritty verses, introducing us to the “dark side of the fucking moon” as promised. They are witty and entertaining between tracks and there is enough character in these two that is sure to capture the attention of many in due time.
After the abrasive opening set, Smoke DZA delivered a completely different hip hop show. He is remarkably comfortable on stage, as his purple bathrobe suggests. His unique voice and flow are showcased over varied production, jumping from relaxed ‘smoking’ tracks to a rendition of the most annoying track of the moment, ‘Coco’. The energy from DZA and his hype man, Al Doe, feels suitable for the occasion but is damped by the disinterest from the DJ, who spends more time texting than scratching and cuts every track a few bars too short. His glum demeanour throughout the short lived set burdens the atmosphere on the stage.
Smoke DZA may be stocked full of personality on record but it is a quality that doesn’t translate as well to the stage as it should. It is clear from the forced crowd interaction and ceremonial “Undertaker moment” of performing in the dark, that this is the show you will get regardless of the country or venue. It is one that does entertain but at the same time lacks conviction. The potential is there for perfectly good hip hop show, but it needs a breath of fresh air if DZA wants to move on to bigger venues and more importantly for him, bigger checks.
Run the Jewels. Opium Rooms 21/12/14
Run the Jewels self titled debut album gained Killer Mike and El-P plenty of well deserved attention, but it was with the release of Run the Jewels 2 in October that they were finally able to establish themselves as the best act in hip hop right now. They have accepted this position with grace and humility and in the process have gained a massive fan base all over the world in just two years. With support coming from arguably the best Irish hip hop act this year, God Knows, MuRli & MynameisjOhn, this sold out gig in Opium Rooms was exactly what was to be expected, a joyous celebration of some of the best hip hop around right now.
After petitioning online to ensure they got the support act slot God Knows, MuRli & MynameisjOhn knew they couldn’t disappoint and they did far from that. From the get go they create the type of energetic atmosphere that artists crave to get from their gigs. The beats bang out a constant rate, with little to no pauses between tracks. God Knows and MuRli rattle off their verses with ferocious energy while leaping around the stage and causing general ruckus with no hint of aggression, just expression.
With Christmas being 4 days and Killer Mike and El-P wrapping up a massive tour in Dublin, the celebratory nature of the gig comes as no surprise. Both walk on stage to Queen’s ‘We Are the Champions’ and break straight into their self titled track, emitting a huge sound. ‘Blockbuster Night Part 1’ and ‘Oh My Darling Don’t Cry’ initiate a frantic pace that is kept up for the entire set, that clocks in at well over an hour. It seems to be the newer material that spurs the bigger reactions, with ‘Love Again’ sparking a loud and pretty hilarious sing along. ‘36” Chain’ & ‘Sea Legs’ both sound as sharp as they do on record, with the only minor faults being scarce breaks in Mike’s voice which to be honest can be expected at the end of a tour anyway.
Leaking the album early, letting Meow the Jewels happen, having a longer set than most, are just a few of the reasons why the crowd shows such appreciation towards them. They are willing to go the extra mile that most rappers won’t to please their fans and it works both ways. Mike gives someone a bottle of vodka, only under strict instructions that he share it. They even request that the security be removed from the front of the stage, on the grounds that they unnecessary because the crowd is a family. It may sound cliché, but he’s right. It may have gotten a bit rowdy but no one appeared uncomfortable, no one got hurt. It was simply a sold out room of people having a good time, with one of the biggest acts at the moment who were as appreciative, if not more, of their presence.
We gave them album and artist of the year on this site so it may seem almost biased to award this gig of the year. However with such an amazing support act in God Knows, MuRli and MynameisjOhn and a perfected set delivered from Run the Jewels, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t the best gig this year.
Yasiin Bey, Vicar Street 24/11/14
Yasiin Bey, better known as Mos Def, is perhaps one of the most intelligent, charismatic and thought provoking emcees of all time. He blends soul, jazz, funk and blues like no other, infusing all these elements with hip hop, only by means of his voice and wise choices in production. A key thing to remember is that Mos Def & Yasiin Bey may be the same person, but they are still two different entities and tonight is all about Yasiin. He may have been joining us to celebrate the 15th anniversary of his debut album, Black on Both Sides, but that is not the centre of attention of this gig. He has taught his long-time collaborator Talib Kweli that the crowd are “paying to see what he feels like expressing, so it doesn’t matter whether he does the hits or not.” Luckily for us he does deliver the hits, but also offers a glimpse into his own mind and what inspires him, keeping everything 100% on his own terms.
His live show has been somewhat berated in recent years, but his consistency throughout this performance leaves very little room for criticism. His renditions of classics like ‘Love’, ‘Mathematics’ & ‘Ms. Fat Booty’ may not resonate in the same tone as they do on the record that we are here to celebrate, but it is important to realise that the change in his style of delivery or production is what makes this such a personal performance, one that is much more than your average hip hop show. It is hard not to marvel at an artist who can make their oldest and most overplayed material refreshing for a new audience, while still pleasing the people who have been following him for 15 years. It is a thin line to tread but it is one that Yasiin does with ease and grace.
An overzealous fan jumping on stage mid song doesn’t even break his stride. What could have turned into an altercation became a lesson learned for a young fan, that his happiness is not more important than everyone else’s. It is only at a Mos Def show that a stage jumper, instead of being thrown out, is let back in the crowd after genuinely being taught a lesson. He performs his newer material with an energy that is not present during the older tracks. He appears happier to have the opportunity to inject some soulful crooning into the songs and it is something that feels improvised, even when it’s not. This only testifies to his ability to command the mic and captivate the crowd like no other. The only things that manage to over shadow the music are his charisma and elegance, and that can’t be a bad thing.
Serial Killers, Voodoo Lounge 25/9/14
The supergroup is a format that is rarely well executed in hip hop. Many are just groups of label mates who come together to feature on each other’s songs and get a leg up in the charts because of it. Serial Killers, B-Real, Demrick and Xzibit, are on the way to changing the way we view rap supergroups. The 3 emcees have undeniable talent and huge amounts of respect for each other which results in ego never coming into the equation during this one of a kind live show in the Voodoo Lounge.
They begin with a short medley of tracks from their debut mixtape, released last year. Then it’s straight into some Cypress Hill material, even featuring a Rage Against the Machine inspired remix of ‘How I Could Just Kill a Man’ that evokes nostalgia and awe. While still recovering from that, ‘Symphony in X Major’ drops and Xzibit delivers his verse with as much venom and menace as on record. The key to this live show is the set list. Very few shows have the ability to touch on almost every era of hip hop quite like this one. They even lead the crowd in a chant-along over the Sugar Hill Gang to bring things full circle.
They keep up a ferocious pace when playing their lesser known group material. “Angels Come Calling’ & ‘No Coming Back’ prove that they don’t rely on the classics to keep the crowd happy. They may differ from each other greatly, but united under the one banner they are a force to be reckoned with. There’s the rough and rugged styling of Xzibit, the high pitched, weed inspired raps from B-Real & the razor sharp rhyming from Demrick. It is their contrasts that result in a consistently entertaining show that is a must see for any hip hop fan.
Freddie Gibbs, Twisted Pepper 4/9/14
Freddie Gibbs has a unique ability to take what has become a stale formula and breathe a new life into it. His tales of being a gangster in Gary, Indiana are more personal and believe than the average gun touting, drug selling rapper these days. For almost every minute of this short lived gig in the Twisted Pepper, he uses his powerful voice to command the respect and attention of everyone packed into the cramped venue with ease.
Prior to the main act, the DJ warms up the crowd with the same 10 to 15 songs played at every rap show in the past year. He did change it up to some degree with a frankly terrible EDM remix of Schoolboy Q’s ‘Man of the Year’. My problem isn’t with him but the fact that a lot of these DJs don’t seem to realise that people are hearing the same collection of songs at gigs and frankly, it’s getting old.
Clearly out to make a lasting impression for his first show in Ireland, Freddie Gibbs is full of ferocious energy when spitting the lyrics to openers ‘Still Livin’ & ‘Thuggin’. It’s a pace that he keeps up for the entire show, rarely having to fall back on a backing track to finish his sentences for him. The consistent intensity is what differentiates Freddie from the competition. Other artists’ sets can falter around the midway mark when they start to play the more unfamiliar material, but that only seems to motivate Gibbs to rap like he has something to prove. His effortless charisma when interacting with the crowd conveys to us that he’s not just a ruthless gangster, but a proper showman also.
The only downfall of the set is the encore. Instead of being treated to another gem from his back catalogue, he appears on stage in a Dublin jersey and bounces around to Bobby Shmurda’s ‘Hot Nigga’. It may entertain but it feels like a bit of a lacklustre attempt to close an otherwise excellent, one of a kind show, which along with his recent collaborative album with Madlib only go to further his claim that he is in fact “a motherfuckin’ rare breed”.
Mobb Deep, Voodoo Lounge 1/8/14
Just under two years ago it was uncertain if the two members of Mobb Deep were on speaking terms. Prodigy was just finished a 3 year prison stint for weapon possession, during which Havoc had been tweeting argumentative statements, claiming his associate was “gay for stay”. With such a heavy gangster reputation surrounding the two, this could have been career ending. However, following their impromptu reconciliation they released The Infamous Mobb Deep in April, to coincide with the 20th anniversary of their second and most critically acclaimed album, The Infamous. In many ways their new material is easily comparable to their live show as both only give you a small glimpse into how good Mobb Deep actually were.
The levels of anticipation and excitement were raised to an almost hostile level during an extended wait for the group to appear. Usual hip hop crowd-pleasers from the DJ were not met with the joyous reaction that is to be expected. After being promised an 11 o clock performance, it looked as if it may not happen at all and rightfully so, the crowd grew restless.
Just after midnight Havoc and Prodigy both appear on stage in a cloud of smoke to perform a frankly dull rendition of the classic, ‘Survival of the Fittest’. Energy levels from the two are raised during ‘Taking You off Here’ & ‘Say Something’, showing they still have the hunger to try to win over the crowd with the more unfamiliar new material. It is surprising that quite a few older songs don’t translate very well to the stage. The once venomous ‘Right Back at You’ falls flat as they must cast aside their laidback, murderous flow in order to be heard on the microphone.
With their previous beefs, along with Prodigy being diagnosed with sickle cell, it is a huge surprise to see the group perform together. All things considered, it was not a completely lacklustre performance. Obvious encore ‘Shook Ones Pt 2’ provides a brief insight into how a mid-90s Mobb Deep show might have felt, which was more like the best house party you’ve ever been to, rather than a slightly disappointing night out.
Ham Sandwich, Whelans 15/7/14
Ham Sandwich (not just a tasty lunch time snack) are an Indie rock band based in Dublin. They got great feedback from their recent gig at Marlay Park supporting Arcade fire and the Pixies, their biggest so far. I’ve been a fan for a couple of years, and since I missed Marlay park, I was happy to find tickets for 17.50 for the Whelan’s 25th anniversary special.
Whelans is celebrating its 25th year of bringing some of the best music from Ireland and all over the world to Dublin’s doorstep. To commemorate this special event they have set up a few special gigs featuring some of the best Ireland has to offer, such as The Frames, Damien Rice, Paddy Casey and of course Hamsandwich.
The act that supported Ham Sandwich was The BQ Trio, whom I never heard before that night. The three lads sing in three part harmonies that are accompanied by a trumpet and acoustic guitars. The trio use their layered vocal harmonies intricately to contrast the gentle minimalism of their instruments in their mostly melancholic song which makes for a very easy listening style of music. The band has their most recent track on Youtube called ‘These are Steps’ live from Unit1 studios. They are definitely one to keep an eye on with their upcoming ‘Minimal Country Disco’ on itunes later this year.
Ham Sandwich played songs from both their first album ‘Carry the Meek’ ’08 and ‘White Fox’ ’10. A contrasting male and female voice that works well together is one of my favourite attributes to find in music. The mellow but powerful feminine voice of Niamh and the deep baritones of Podge give the band their niche. Their style of song starts off quietly with slow gentle rhythms that lead to a chorus that will have you up and dancing, such as their single ‘models’.
The atmosphere would rival some of the best gigs I’ve been to; this was made evident by the band themselves. They put a great amount of energy into their performance and didn’t miss a beat. A band that sound just as good live as they do on an album is something rarely seen today.
Niamh reminded me of David Bowie or Debbie Harry, with glittery eyes and killer dance moves, where they get their inspiration is clear by her voice. To show some of the music that influences them they did a couple of covers that included ‘Running up that Hill’ by Kate Bush, ‘No Surprises’ by Radiohead and my personal favourite of the night Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’.
Throughout the performance the members of Hamsandwich thanked the crowd and everyone who helped them many times. It’s refreshing to see a band so humble. They were amazed that so many people came to see them on a Tuesday. As their encore they played perhaps their most famous single ‘Ants’. This was a perfect way to wind down the audience after the Donna Summer classic.
Pusha T, Button Factory 9/6/14
After splitting with longtime collaborator and brother, No Malice, Pusha T signed with Kanye West’s label G.O.O.D Music to release his album, My Name Is My Name. For a while it looked like Pusha could fade into into hip hop obscurity, but after the hype surrounding MNIMN and Kanye proclaiming to the world that ‘everything is Pusha T’, his solo career took off more than many expected. You would think that he would feel on top of the world with his new found relevance which can be very hard to acquire in the genre, but his performance feels lacklustre and uninspired.
Supporting act, Simi Crowns played an excellent set with his backing band. The passion and energy he has is unmatched by the main act, as he bounds from side to side of the stage. It’s not often that you can say the local support act puts on a better show and is a better performer than the main attraction, but this is definitely the case tonight. Even long after Pusha’s set, the name Simi Crowns is resounding through the building as the crowd make their way out.
To say that Pusha T’s entire set was terrible may be an overstatement. There is no denying the power of G.O.O.D Music collaborative songs such as New God Flow and Don’t Like to keep the crowd happy. However, when you only have a minute long verse on these tracks and don’t play at least one other person’s verse, then it can leave you feeling cheated. Hearing about 1 minute of Mercy simply doesn’t cut it, considering it gets one of the biggest responses of the night. Even during hit single, Numbers On The Board it feels like Pusha is just going through the motions.
A quick run through Clipse’ classic Grindin and it is over before you know it. It’s safe to say that almost all hip hop shows only last an hour, but rarely does it feel like the hour drags by. There is something missing from the show and in my opinion it is passion. If he had seemed genuinely happy to be there, or hadn’t had been on tour for so long then maybe you would be wondering what song you might hear next, instead of when the next bus home is.
Schoolboy Q, Vicar Street 27/6/14
Schoolboy Q has had a great year so far. After releasing his much delayed Oxymoron in February and debuting at number 1 on the Billboard chart, he is now wrapping up a long tour over America and Europe. The Oxymoron tour has given him his first chance to visit countries such as Ireland and it is clear that after some anger at the delay of his album release, he has earned his self proclaimed title of Man Of The Year.
Opening act Rene Brown did a great job in showcasing her talent as an MC. She recevied a warm welcome, especially when rapping over familiar beats such as Watching Movies by Mac Miller and took time between songs to smoke joints and trade twitter names with the crowd. She is very comfortable on stage and has a stronger voice than a lot of male rappers when performing. With the right promotion, she has the charisma and potential to become a big player in hip hop.
Isaiah Rashad played a reletively short set, sticking to material from Clivia Demo, his debut mixtape. Highlights included Shot You Down and R.I.P Kevin Miller, in which he repeatedly asked the crowd whether they live for ‘bitches & blunts’ or ‘weed & money’. He’s an incredibly entertaining performer as he storms side to side on the stage with the mannerisms of Old Dirty Bastard. The passion that he has on record translates perfectly to the stage and it’s clear that lyrically, he is on par with his fellow TDE label mates Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul & Jay Rock. He may be the new kid on the label, but he has the raw skill and talent that he needs to hang with the top dawgs.
Schoolboy Q opens his show with the menacing Fuck LA, exploding onto stage shouting ‘fuck what rappers say, bitch I am L.A‘. This level of energy is maintained during singles like Banger and Collard Greens. What Schoolboy Q does a lot better than many rappers these days, is that he lets people hear what they want. He has expressed his unhappiness with singles like Hands On The Wheel before, but knows that people still expect to hear it live. Older songs like BetIGotSumWeed may not hit as hard as Blind Threats, but every song serves the purpose to please the casual and die hard fans alike. He is also someone who has a lot of fun on stage and seems genuinely overwhelmed at the fact that his following in Ireland isn’t just “30 people”.
Before his encore of Oxymoron and Man Of The Year, which had the biggest mosh pit I’ve seen at a rap show, he takes a minute to thank the crowd for their support and says that “my happiness is your happiness”. It is clear that he is very happy and grateful to be where he is and it is the same attitude given back from the crowd throughout his entire set.
Grandmaster Flash, The Village 4/5/14
Grandmaster Flash is one of the pioneers of hip hop DJing and his songs such as ‘The Message’ helped to elevate hip hop music to a new level in the early 80s. It was safe to say that I wasn’t sure what to expect from this set but I knew it would be something special. The oddest thing about the night for me was the starting time, as doors were at 11 and Flash himself didnt make an appeanance to closer to half 12, but this is to be expected at certain hip hop shows. The support act was a DJ and a rapper playing a mix of originals and a few classics such as ‘Hip Hop’ by Dead Prez & ‘The Next Episode’ by Dr. Dre. They had some success in getting people ready for the show, my only problem was that they played some songs that Grandmaster Flash also played in his set. A support act like this should know what to expect from the main act and try their best to refrain from playing some of the same songs if at all possible.
Perhaps people who had bought their ticket to see a Grandmaster Flash show, expecting him to be rapping along to his songs, may have been slightly disappointed but, there is no denying that for only €15 it is a great night out and you will probably hear at least 4 of your favorite songs. To try and give a list of every song that he played would be impossible but the artists played throughout the night included Wu Tang Clan, Eminem, Dr. Dre, DJ Kool & various other hip hop acts. It was a great chance to hear those certain songs that don’t get the airplay at hip hop nights throughout Dublin for whatever reason.
Unfortunately the only other DJ set that I can compare to this is Madlib’s a couple of weeks ago in the Sugar Club. Although they are both hip hop DJs, there is a great contrast between their shows. Madlib caters to the sample lovers and his select fan base, whereas a Grandmaster Flash set feels more like going to a house party or a club night. Not to take anything away from Madlib’s set because it was brilliant, but Flash definitely has the ‘party over here, fuck you over there’ mentality down to a t. Closing with his classic hit ‘ White Lines’, it was about half 2 in the morning before he actually left the stage which was a nice change of pace to the usual over by 11 o’ clock type gig. I would recommend this show highly to any hip hop fan for a night out and anyone with a love for DJ sets as his is one of the best around.
Earl Sweatshirt, 26/3/14
Two nights ago, Earl Sweatshirt played the Academy in Dublin, his first solo show in Ireland since his return from a boarding school in Samoa. He has played here with Tyler, The Creator at an Eminem show last August but this is different as this is the first time we finally got to see Earl on stage by himself, performing solo material. As a huge Odd Future fan, I’ve been waiting for this show for about 3 years and I remember seeing the group in the Academy in 2011 and throughout the gig the fans were chanting ‘free Earl’ and they even ended the show with his self titled song. The hype that was built up around this time worked as a blessing and a curse for Earl, as he arrived back to Los Angeles with a horde of fans waiting for him, as well as a huge reputation to live up to. This gig definitely showcased the skills that he has gained since his return in 2012.
The night started off with Irish hip hop group, the Animators taking to the stage, playing for about 30 minutes. They have a great onstage chemistry and they definitely made the most of this opportunity, gaining many new fans in the process. They are, in my opinion, Ireland’s greatest hip hop act. They clearly have quite a lot of fun on stage, cracking jokes amongst themselves and the crowd and I believe it is their chemistry as a group that will be the secret to their success. Good examples of this working in the past are the Wu Tang Clan and Odd Future themselves. With the right team of promoters and support slots like this I can see the Animators going a lot further than most previous Irish hip hop acts.
Lucas Vercetti, you may remember his face from album covers and hoodies is Earl’s DJ for the night and he hits the stage to spin a few songs to get everyone warmed up. He does a good job in getting the crowd moving but it isn’t until he plays instrumental track 523, that the excitement really starts to build. Earl hits the stage, opening with Kill from his first album and it is at this moment I saw what the crowd was really capable of. Almost every person in the building is either moshing, dancing, screaming or trying their best to get a look at Earl as he storms from one stage side to the other. It is very clear that a lot of the people here are diehard fans who need no winning over, but are simply glad to see him back and doing what he does best.
When examining this gig, it is important to realise that Earl’s first live performance was in New York to a sold out crowd of Odd Future fans, all trying to reassure themselves that he was actually back with the group. It would be daunting as an 18 year old, at the time to have that much hype surrounding you, with only an 8 track mixtape under your belt. Looking back on footage from that concert now, it is great to see how much Earl has grown as not just a rapper but a performer. Instead of having his face buried into a microphone, he spits his lyrics with venom, rarely missing a beat and often going acapella at the end of songs. As people in the crowd shout every single word back to him he just looks up and smiles, continuing to play old and new songs such as ‘Hive’, ‘Whoa’ and ‘Couch’. It is nice to see him having such a good time performing, as he is now past the stage of being over whelmed by his fame and is now welcoming it with open arms. This was never more evident than when the crowd begins an ‘olé’ chant and he takes it all in, watching everyone and saying that it makes him feel like a warlord. Although this may not be true, it is very clear that if he was going to battle that everyone in the Academy would swear their allegiance to him and go to war.
MF DOOM, The Sugar Club 23/3/14
Elusive & mysterious rapper, MF DOOM played The Sugar Club in Dublin this past Sunday and although he may be known for being less than reliable when it comes to live performances, he put on a fantastic show. Due to a couple of dodgy booking agencies, DOOM has supposedly sent imposters in his place to a couple of his scheduled appearences in this past, so this left us all wondering if he would show up and whether or not it would actually be him. This is of course a man who has a lyric, “he plots shows like robbiers, in and out, 1, 2 ,3 nobody’s pleased.” Luckily for us, this wasn’t the case.
Opening act Mobonix hit the stage about 9.15, playing for about 20 minutes. He did a great job in getting the crowd to the stage and getting people moving. His style was perfect as a opener for an MF DOOM gig, as he bounced in between lyrics with a style similar to Mos Def over some of DOOM’s own beats from his instrumental series, Special Herbs & Spices 0-9. He also kept moving between the stage and the merchandise stand to get more of his CD’s to throw out for free, a good tactic to guarantee that people will still remember you the next day and you don’t fade into support act obscurity.
By the time Mobonix left the stage, the crowd was well and truly warmed up and ready for DOOM. After a half hour wait the buzz within the crowd was starting to die down and after another half an hour, they were getting restless. For some, it didn’t look like it was going to happen as it was approaching 10.30 and his live drummer was standing beside the stage with as much of a clue as we did on the villain’s whereabouts. After a long 5 minute wait, there was a lot of movement by the door and the drummer took to the stage for DOOM’s entrance. I have to say that the addition of this drummer to the show is what makes this such a unique experience as he rarely stops playing throughout the entire 60 minute set.
DOOM and his hype man, Big Ben Klingon finally hit the stage and spent about 10 minutes warming up the crowd, cracking jokes and throwing high fives, while the drummer played some instrumentals. This may have gone on a tad long as it was just an hour’s set, but DOOM is clearly a man who does what he wants, how he wants, which is a lot more than most artists can say. Opening his set with ‘Hoe Cakes’ was a great choice and other older tracks like ‘One Beer’ and ‘Rhymes Like Dimes’ went down very well. A lot of the set list was composed from DOOM and producer Madlib’s classic album Madvillainy, which turned 10 years old this week. ‘Curls’ and ‘Figaro’ were personal highlights for me
My only problem with the show is that with such a vast discography, he has many songs that would have gone down a treat that he chooses not to play. We heard most of the classics but I’m sure that myself and several others would have lost our minds hearing ‘Absolutely’ or ‘Beef Rapp’. However, for someone who is such a veteran at this stage, he performs with the same enthusiasm and charisma as an energetic beginner. It is clear that he has perfected his act to the way he wants it and luckily for us, he is having trouble getting home to the U.S, so hopefully there will be a few more DOOM gigs in the future, before he retires and “sits up somewhere in the sun and breath fire”. It was definitely one of my favourite and most enjoyable shows that I’ve ever been to, but then again it’s not every day that you get a salute from the villain himself. (see picture)