Category Archives: Live Reviews

Live Review – Blak Twang

blak twang pic

Venue: Jazz Cafe, London  Date: 22 September 2014

There are some artists who represent more than just good music. They represent a moment in time, an era, a period in history never to be repeated. South London’s Blak Twang is one such artist.

In the early-to-mid-90s, UK Hip-Hop was approaching a creative standstill. Many of the groups and artists who had paved the way for the British rap scene in the 1980s were either breaking-up, falling away from music due to the responsibilities of adulthood, or they were caught in the red-tape of bad record deals. Some were also becoming disillusioned with Hip-Hop and had moved over to the then burgeoning jungle / drum & bass scenes. Labels such as Music Of Life and Kold Sweat were closing their doors.

Although there were still glimmers of sonic hope being released, overall, it felt as though the momentum gained by the likes of London Posse, Hijack, Gunshot and Caveman was slowly-but-surely being lost.

So, when artists such as Blak Twang, Roots Manuva, Mark B and Lewis Parker began to emerge during the mid-90s, it signified that a fresh wave of UK talent was on the horizon. A new generation of emcees, deejays and producers who were students of the homegrown pioneers that had come before them, with enough originality and determination to put their own mark on British Hip-Hop and help push the music forward.

With boisterous tracks such as 1995’s “Queens Head” and “Mr. Jam Promotah”, a young Tony Rotten, then known as Taipanic, demanded that people paid attention to his self-assured brand of beats and rhymes. This, in-turn, led to there being a high amount of anticipation for what should have been the 1996 release of Twang’s debut album “Dettwork SouthEast”.

The reasons for “Dettwork SouthEast” not properly seeing the light of day back in the 90s have been well-documented, but suffice to say, the album became a bootlegged cult classic which has only grown in notoriety as Tony Rotten’s career has gone from strength-to-strength over the years.

So, with all that being said, it quickly became apparent that the “Dettwork SouthEast” launch party this week at London’s Jazz Cafe wasn’t just an opportunity to promote the album’s long-awaited official release. The event also gave Mr. Rottenous the chance to celebrate his well-deserved longevity, as well as remember the part he played in one of the most influential periods in UK Hip-Hop history.

With the ever-impressive DJ Sarah Love having set the tone for the night with a barrage of throwback classics, Twang took to the stage accompanied by the sound of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” and Big Ted behind the decks.

Standing silently briefly to take in the crowd’s enthusiastic cheers, the London lyricist then launched into what was a seamless performance that included moments of both humour and poignant reflection, bound together by Twang’s sincere gratitude towards his fans and a genuine passion for his craft.

Poking fun at the 90s references in some of his old verses (such as a line name-checking Pamela Anderson), telling stories of growing-up in South London and pointing out old friends in the crowd, Blak Twang powered through tracks from “Dettwork SouthEast” such as the punchy, Horace Brown-sampling “Fearless”, the defiant “Don’t Let Dem Fool You” and the rugged, drum-heavy anthem “B.S. Survivor”.

An impromptu appearance from the always-lively Seanie T raised the energy levels even further, with the pair bouncing off each other as if they were rocking at an open mic night two decades earlier.

Pausing at one point to give props to his absent brother-in-rhyme Roots Manuva for his success, Twang then roared through the previously-mentioned “Queens Head”, which the pair recorded together way back when. Midway through the track, Big Ted flawlessly mixed in the instrumental to Bobby Shmurda’s “Hot Ni**a”, with Tony Rotten’s vintage rhymes sounding completely at home over the recent club smash.

Other highlights included rousing performances of both the classic single “Real Estate” and the album’s rowdy title track, which then led into the up-to-date remix “Dettwork London Revisited”, with producer Harry Love taking the mic to voice his respect for Blak Twang’s artistic legacy before featured artist Jehst plus Reveal jumped onstage to each deliver blistering verses.

By the time Twang reached the show’s finale, inviting supporters onstage as he performed his signature sing-a-long favourite “So Rotten”, it was clear that, almost twenty years after his debut, the artist formerly known as Taipanic still has what it takes to rock the postcodes of London and beyond.

“Dettwork SouthEast” is out now on Sony Music.

Ryan Proctor

Footage of Blak Twang performing “Real Estate” at London’s Jazz Cafe.

Live Review – Big Daddy Kane

big daddy kane pic

Venue: Jazz Cafe, London  Date: 24 April 2013

As one of my top five emcees of all-time, any opportunity to see Juice Crew legend Big Daddy Kane rip the stage is definitely something not to be missed. Having witnessed the Prince Of Darkness live on numerous occassions over the years, it’s safe to say the Brooklyn-bred emcee easily ranks alongside the likes of KRS-One and The Roots as one of Hip-Hop greatest live acts. With a catalogue of classics to choose from combined with a commanding stage presence, Kane never fails to come across as a seasoned, polished performer, with that old-school BK bravado shining through just enough to remind audiences that he was once one of the most feared lyricists in the rap world.

Even if, like myself, you’ve seen Kane live before, his appearance at London’s Jazz Cafe put a new spin on things, with the venue’s intimate setting providing an interesting alternative to the much larger locations BDK has previously been booked at in the UK’s capital city.

Following a quality opening set from Crown City Rockers emcee Raashan Ahmad, King Asiatic Nobody’s Equal calmly descended the Jazz Cafe stairs to the sound of thunderous cheers, his simple outfit of shirt, waistcoat and jeans a million miles away from the custom sweat-suits and gold-chains Kane would have been picking up from Brooklyn’s famous Albee Square Mall back in the 80s.

Opening the show with a back-to-back medley of upbeat classics, the Big Daddy tore through the “Juice” soundtrack favourite “Nuff Respect”, the 1988 party-starter “Set It Off” and the Prince Paul-produced single “It’s Hard Being The Kane”, delivering his fast-paced rhymes with a level of force and aggression that easily matched his verses on the original recordings.

Pausing briefly to catch his breath, the golden-era great then proceeded to run through a near non-stop barrage of timeless tracks, including “Young, Gifted And Black”, “Just Rhymin’ With Biz”, his verse from the mighty posse cut “The Symphony” and the mellow anthem “Smooth Operator”.

Injecting some humour into the performance, when a female audience member called out inbetween songs “Where’s Scoob & Scrap?!” Kane responded without missing a beat, shooting back “I’m 44-years-old! I don’t how much dancing you’re expecting to see…”

Breaking momentarily from his back catalogue, Kane showcased a track from his new album as part of live band Las Supper, making the wise choice not to force too much unfamiliar material on the audience, but ensuring he did just enough to raise awareness of the new project without detracting from the night’s lively throwback atmosphere.

Leading the crowd in an enthusiastic call-and-response routine, Biz Markie’s former running partner also took time out to pay homage to a number of Hip-Hop’s fallen soldiers, including Heavy D, Guru and Biggie, ending the segment with a shout to Big L which then led into Kane performing the track he recorded with the Harlem icon, “Platinum Plus”.

With “Ain’t No Half-Steppin'” and “Warm It Up, Kane” filling in the blanks for anyone who was counting the inclusion of staple Kane cuts, all that was left for BDK to do was drop the track some ageing heads had been calling for all night, closing the show with the Marley Marl-produced “Raw”, which still stands-up as a near perfect display of whirlwind lyricism twenty-five years after its release.

Big Daddy Kane’s stageshow has barely changed in the last ten years, but it really doesn’t need to. Like the R&B greats he once openly admired such as Barry White and Marvin Gaye, Kane has reached a point where the music heard on early albums such as “Long Live The Kane” and “It’s A Big Daddy Thing” has not only aged well, but now represents a period of time for an entire generation of Hip-Hop heads eager to be taken back to our youth, when our main concerns involved keeping our sneakers clean and copping the new Public Enemy album, rather than paying bills and day-job drama.

All Kane has to do to keep fans happy is keep coming back and running through his long-list of crowd favourites with the same level of enjoyment  he displayed throughout this particular show, demonstrating that the man behind the mic cherishes those some classics and their place in Hip-Hop history just as much as those who’ve paid for a ticket.

Kane might now be approaching his mid-forties, but when it comes to putting on a quality show, he’s sure to continue to get the job done for a few years yet.

Ryan Proctor

Footage of Big Daddy Kane performing “Nuff Respect”, “Set It Off” and “It’s Hard Being The Kane” at London’s Jazz Cafe.

Live Review – 4our Pillars

mcm k-sly

Photo By Karen “InchHigh” Dabner McIntyre

Venue: The Underdog Gallery, London  Date: 7 December 2012

UK Hip-Hop has definitely had its fair share of ups-and-downs over the years, from industry indifference and a constant battle for attention with our Stateside counterparts, to low sales and an often unsupportive British music press. But regardless of the obstacles and adversity homegrown artists have endured throughout the decades, Hip-Hop culture has thrived in the UK, from the early days of London’s 80s Covent Garden scene to the numerous present day events held throughout the country seeking to keep the torch alight.

With this in mind, the organiser’s behind London’s 4our Pillars night (namely 90s Britcore favourites Son Of Noise) are also looking to do their part to ensure the traditional elements of Hip-Hop remain intact on our shores, whilst also celebrating the foundations of the British Hip-Hop movement.

Held at London Bridge’s intimate Underdog Gallery, this event was about so much more than just a crowd of people passing the time under one roof as they waited for the headlining artists to hit the stage. This second 4our Pillars session felt more like a family reunion than simply your standard Hip-Hop night.

Surrounded by impressive graffiti pieces from ArtJaz, Gasp and Dep, a mixture of fans, friends and artists rubbed shoulders as DJ Devastate of Demon Boyz fame and Hardnoise’s DJ Mada dropped an impressive selection of golden-era gems from the likes of Schoolly D and Main Source.

Highlights of the night included the mighty Killa Instinct tearing the place up with their 1992 Music Of Life classic “The Bambi Murders”, Son Of Noise themselves delivering a dose of their own distinctive brand of hardcore Hip-Hop, plus Caveman’s MCM and Hijack’s Kamanchi Sly passing the mic for an impromptu freestyle session with Germany’s DJ Stylewarz spinning some classic breakbeats.

An electric performance from UK b-boy crew The Soul Mavericks set off camera flashes from all directions, whilst Rodney P and Skitz were also on-hand to ensure the momentum continued.

With people having travelled from Wales, France and Italy to attend, the 4our Pillars crew succeeded in their mission to deliver an event grounded in Afrika Bambaataa’s ethos of peace, love, unity and having fun. The venue was filled with positive vibes and a genuine energy, with everyone in attendance clearly there out of a shared passion for true-school Hip-Hop.

Some technical sound issues and last minute line-up changes did nothing to dampen the collective enthusiasm of the crowd, with the spontaneous, organic feel of the entire night only adding to the feeling of being at a monumental old-school jam.

An overall brilliant experience and a testament to the timeless talent that made up the 80s / 90s UK scene, 4our Pillars may have been born out of the need to pay homage to the history of British Hip-Hop, but on this particular night we witnessed some new history being made as well.

Ryan Proctor

Footage of Kamanchi Sly and MCM freestyling at 4our Pillars.

Live Review – Lord Finesse / DJ Boogie Blind

Venue: The Music Cafe, Leicester  Date: 18 November 2012

Only a handful of Hip-Hop artists are able to live up to the promise of their name like Bronx-bred legend Lord Finesse, otherwise known as the Funkyman. True Hip-Hop royalty who can rock the mic, sampler and turntables with natural ease, the founding D.I.T.C. member’s dusty-fingered, boom-bap musical aesthetic and witty, punchline-heavy flow helped define 90s East Coast Hip-Hop, with Finesse also having worked with superstar acts such as The Notorious B.I.G. and Dr. Dre as well as underground artists like Shorty Long and AK Skills.

With a career now spanning over twenty years, Finesse has been keeping fans happy in recent times with a slew of previously-unreleased golden-era gems via the Slice Of Spice label, whilst continuing to work on his heavily-anticipated new album.

Having not performed in the UK since 2005, news of a Lord Finesse / DJ Boogie Blind European tour sent waves of anticipation throughout the British underground Hip-Hop community. But no matter how high hopes may have been for gigs in locations including London, Leeds and Brighton, based on the hugely positive feedback appearing on social networking sites after each show, it’s probably safe to say there aren’t many fans who left their chosen venue having not had their expectations well and truly exceeded by a brilliant performance from Finesse and Boogie Blind.

After being thoroughly impressed by the pair’s quality London gig earlier this month, I definitely couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see the Rotten Apple representatives do it all over again on the “Here I Come” tour’s final date in Leicester.

Following a lively opening from Boogie Blind, the Funkyman strode onstage full of BX swagger, launching into a brief introductory verse that perfectly captured the essence of Finesse’s lyrical persona – slick, humorous, and, ultimately, always ready to put a sucker emcee in check.

Graciously acknowledging the fact that the venue was approximately only half-full, Finesse assured those who had made the effort to attend that, whether there was “two or two thousand people” in front of him, he would always aim to put the same amount of energy into any show.

Working his way through classics from his album releases “Funky Technician” (1990), “Return Of The Funky Man” (1992) and “The Awakening” (1995), Finesse proved just how timeless his back catalogue is, with none of the material sounding dated in the least as the L-O-R-D enthusiastically performed tracks such as “Bad Mutha” and “Party Over Here” as if he’d just released them yesterday, with his attention to detail during soundcheck paying dividends as his voice sounded identical to the original recordings.

The heavy bassline of the brilliant “You Know What I’m About” drew cheers from the crowd, as to did the rumbling drums of “Brainstorm” and the infectious opening sample of “Flip Da Style”.

Pausing to allow Boogie Blind to showcase his deejay skills, the X-ecutioner sliced Run DMC’s “Beats To The Rhyme” back-to-back with cuts as clean as Sunday church clothes. As the audience’s excitement levels grew with each flick of Blind’s wrist, the pair then took things to another level, as Finesse sauntered behind the turntables to watch Boogie do his thing, only for the Harlem deejay to suddenly step away from the decks, allowing the Funkyman to take his place and carry on cutting back-and-forth without missing a beat.

Continuing to each take their turn behind the ones and twos, resulting in a fluid, uninterrupted scratch attack, the skillful demonstration culminated with both Blind and Finesse attempting to out-do one another as they each pulled out their best tricks, scratching behind backs and working the crossfader with various body parts.

Establishing and maintaining a strong rapport with the crowd, Finesse interspersed his performance with opinions on the current state of the rap game (“I’m not with none of that electronic s**t”), stories of working with the likes of KRS-One, and, of course, recollections of the late, great Big L, with the animated artist telling the tale of how the pair first met before Boogie Blind dropped a handful of the NY emcee’s signature tracks such as “Put It On”.

The iconic producer-on-the-mic also took the opportunity to pay tribute to his Diggin’ In The Crates comrades, stating that only Wu-Tang could compare to the multi-faceted clique when it came to pure talent, before running through a selection of crew cuts including perhaps the definitive D.I.T.C. posse track, the Diamond D-produced “Day One”.

Bringing the night to a close accompanied by the sound of relentless applause, Finesse and Boogie Blind left the stage having given a near-perfect lesson in live Hip-Hop, completing a tour that will no doubt be remembered for years to come by those who were fortunate enough to witness the true-school duo in action.

Praise the Lord!

Ryan Proctor

Footage of Lord Finesse performing “Funky Technician” at Leicester’s Music Cafe.

Live Review – Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth

Venue: Jazz Cafe, London  Date: 29 October 2012

As one of Hip-Hop’s greatest musical partnerships, Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth hold a place not only in the rap history books, but also in the hearts of loyal fans worldwide. The Money Earnin’ Mount Vernon duo’s output in the early-to-mid-90s consisted of nothing but back-to-back classic material, from their debut 1991 EP “All Souled Out” through to the remix singles that came off their brilliant 1994 sophomore album “The Main Ingredient”. Whilst Pete Rock also blessed the likes of Public Enemy, Das EFX and Nas with his trademark horn-driven production, it can’t be denied that few sounded as comfortable on a Chocolate Boy Wonder track as the Mecca Don, C.L. Smooth, who wrapped up street knowledge, social commentary and self-reflection in his instantly recognisable, warm, buttery flow.

Since that initial golden-era run, Pete and C.L.’s relationship has been rocky to say the least, both musically and personally. With promises of reunion projects amounting to little more than the odd single here and there, the pair’s on-off status has kept supporters guessing for years, surrounded by a dark cloud of supposed unresolved differences.

So taking all of that into consideration, it was with mixed feelings of excitement and reluctance that news of Pete and C.L.’s 20th anniversary “Mecca And The Soul Brother” tour arrived in this particular writer’s inbox. Obviously, the opportunity to see two legends celebrate a truly flawless example of 90s East Coast Hip-Hop couldn’t be passed up. Yet, at the same time, the thought of seeing one of your favourite acts potentially going through the motions and subsequently damaging their legacy wasn’t necessarily something that I wanted to witness either.

Thankfully, if the childhood friends do still have any unsettled issues, they didn’t allow them to spill over and negatively impact what, essentially, was a great performance of a classic album.

Although there were moments during the show that gave away the fact the pair haven’t spent as much time performing together in recent years as they once did, the chemistry that made the twosome’s sonic collaborations so incredible was still clearly there to be seen and heard.

With Pete Rock already positioned behind his turntables and laptop, C.L. descended the Jazz Cafe stairs to thunderous cheers, accompanied by the spoken word intro from the opening cut on “Mecca And The Soul Brother”, the aptly-titled “Return Of The Mecca”. Standing centre-stage, arms outstretched, face screwed tightly in a “That’s that s**t!” expression, Corey Love stepped straight back into 1992, hitting his rhymes crisply and clearly the moment Pete Rock’s huge drums came crashing through the speakers.

Working their way through their Elektra-released album’s epic tracklist in chronological order at first, “For Pete’s Sake”, “Ghettos Of The Mind” and “Lots Of Lovin” were all given an enthusiastic response from the crowd.

At one point, Pete Rock made his way from behind the turntables to perform his “All Souled Out” solo cut “The Creator” and “Soul Brother #1”, with C.L. admitting ‘This is making me feel like a kid again…’ as they continued to take the audience on a collective trip down memory lane via tracks like “Act Like You Know” and the relentless head-nodder “Can’t Front On Me”.

Pausing briefly to allow Pete to flex his deejay skills, which included the super-producer dropping both classic breakbeats and a selection of his own work with other artists, the pair soon dove straight back into their timeless debut.

Not only was it impressive that C.L. didn’t stumble once whilst running through what are now twenty-year-old rhymes, it also brought home just how mature and ahead-of-his-time the young Mecca Don was back when he originally penned those verses over two decades ago, with the focused political aggression of “Anger In The Nation” and the cautionary lyrics of “Straighten It Out” sounding completely appropriate coming out of the mouth of a forty-something emcee in the present day.

Of course, no track on “Mecca And The Soul Brother” quite makes that point like the stunning Trouble T-Roy dedication “They Reminisce Over You”. By the time Pete Rock blended the original Tom Scott track into the triumphant opening horns of their own version as the show finale, it felt like literally everyone was on their feet, hands in the air, caught up in the emotional, dusty-fingered magic of an anthem that is to Hip-Hop what John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” is to jazz and Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” is to soul music.

With the pair meeting and greeting fans afterwards, Pete signing records and C.L. posing for photographs, a lot of people no doubt left the Jazz Cafe very, very happy on this particular night.

Being super-critical, it would have been a nice touch if the pair had spoken a little more during the performance about the inspiration behind some of the tracks contained on “Mecca And The Soul Brother”, or maybe shared some studio stories to put the music into context for both the younger fans in attendance as well as the older heads. But, ultimately, the beats and rhymes that make up the album spoke for themselves adequately enough in 1992 and have easily stood the test of time well enough to still be able to do the same in 2012.

So, after this successful live reunion, the question that now needs to be asked, to paraphrase Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth themselves, is what’s next on the menu for the iconic duo?

Ryan Proctor

Footage of Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth performing “They Reminisce Over You” on the first of their three nights at London’s Jazz Cafe.

Live Review – DJ Doo Wop / Sadat X / Jeru The Damaja

Venue: Jazz Cafe, London  Date: 17 October 2012

London has seen its fair share of performances from golden-era artists in recent months, with this particular event being one of the most anticipated, promising appearances from not one, but two iconic emcees backed-up by one of the greatest mixtape deejays of all-time.

Between them, Brand Nubian’s Sadat X and former Gang Starr Foundation member Jeru The Damaja share a hefty catalogue of classics, all of which have aged well and still stand as musical monuments to the lyrical brilliance and sonic creativity that the best of 90s Hip-Hop had to offer.

After the Bounce Master himself DJ Doo Wop had warmed the crowd up with a selection of real rap staples, a lively Sadat X bounded onstage to the sound of the Brand Nubian favourite “Punks Jump Up To Get Beat Down”, leading the crowd as they chanted the hook in unison before launching into the timeless “All For One”.

Pausing to remind everyone that he reps “New York City, Brand Nubian, D.I.T.C. and Lo-Lifes”, the emcee with one of the most recognisable voices in Hip-Hop proceeded to drop his verse from the late-90s Rawkus banger “1-9-9-9” and also delivered a rousing rendition of his “Ready To Die”-era collaboration with Biggie Smalls, “Come On Motherf**kers”, with Sadat reminiscing on the time he spent in the studio writing the track with the BK giant as they both got drunk on champagne.

Promising to return later, X left the stage, leaving the audience in the capable hands of Doo Wop once again. Dropping some rhymes of his own, the Bounce Squad leader took the opportunity to dedicate the segment to his fallen friend Guru (complete with a “F**k Solar!” moment), going back-to-back on the turntables with some Gang Starr classics, including “Take It Personal”, which was Jeru’s signal to make his first appearance.

Reciting Guru’s rhymes in his own inimitable Brooklyn baritone, the NY emcee, decked in jeans, hoodie and Timberlands, smiled widely as he was greeted with roars of approval. Working his way through a number of DJ Premier-produced cuts, including “D. Original” and “Tha Bulls**t”, the gritty wordsmith mixed some humour into his performance, engaging in light-hearted exchanges with various audience members and playfully chastising the crowd for apparently not making enough noise.

Something that was apparent from looking around the venue was the number of younger heads in attendance, some of whom looked like they would barely have been born when both Sadat and Jeru were first making their respective marks on the Hip-Hop landscape. Encouragingly, the majority of the more youthful faces around the Jazz Cafe definitely didn’t appear to be fairweather fans, rhyming along word-for-word to twenty-year-old joints as if they were the soundtrack of the present day. A situation which can only be viewed as a positive thing as, judging from the lack of old-school heads at this and other recent gigs, it will be those younger fans who keep artists such as Sadat and Jeru touring for years to come, as long as their interest in classic Hip-Hop isn’t just a passing phase based on the music’s potential retro-cool appeal.

With Sadat and Jeru each performing a second individual set, which included anthems such as “Love Me Or Leave Me Alone” and “Come Clean”, the show closed with an impromptu freestyle session. As Jeru stepped behind the turntables to spin some familiar breaks, Sadat and Doo Wop invited any emcees in the house to approach the stage, with UK talent such as Oliver Sudden and Chima Anya taking the opportunity to rock with the three Rotten Apple representatives.

Ending a seamless night of classic material by mingling with fans to graciously sign autographs and take photos, Sadat, Jeru and Doo Wop left having ensured those older fans in the crowd were able to relive some of their Hip-Hop memories, whilst helping the younger heads in the audience create some new ones of their own.

Ryan Proctor

Footage of Sadat X performing “Punks Jump Up To Get Beat Down” at the Jazz Cafe.

Live Review – Inspectah Deck

Venue: Jazz Cafe, London  Date: 8 October 2012

Times have definitely changed. Almost twenty years ago, in 1993, the mighty Wu-Tang Clan launched an assault from the slums of Shaolin with a debut album that would have a lasting impact on the music, business and culture of Hip-Hop, placing the RZA-led band of rap brothers alongside the likes of Public Enemy and N.W.A. as a group that changed the game. Two decades later and the Clan’s huge record sales, cultural influence and global fame were definitely not reflected by the surprisingly small number of die-hard Wu fans scattered around London’s Jazz Cafe awaiting the arrival of the Rebel INS, better known as Inspectah Deck.

Deck might not have been as colourful a Clan character as Method Man or Ol’ Dirty Bastard, nor might he have as many certified solo classics under his belt as Raekown or Ghostface, but the Staten Island native has always been one of the crew’s strongest and most robust lyricists. So why then the small turn-out? Maybe it was the fact that Deck hasn’t made as big an impact as a solo artist as some of his homeboys, maybe it was a lack of promotion for the show, or perhaps it was down to the typically poor British October weather, but regardless, to see that only approximately a hundred people had passed through the Jazz Cafe doors was definitely something of a shock.

As the minutes to showtime ticked by, the same concerns were probably running throuth the minds of many of the fans who had made the effort to attend. Would Deck leave it as late as possible to hit the stage in the hope more people would arrive? Would the Wu warrior then end-up delivering a short set due to his disappointment at the size of the crowd? Would those fans who had travelled to the gig also leave disappointed because of Deck’s potential reaction to the situation? The same short answer applies to all of those questions – no, no and no.

Joined by hypeman Colt Seavers and DJ Timmi Handtrix, Deck descended the venue’s stairs at a prompt 9:45pm, encouraging everyone to gather close to the stage so that he could “turn this muthafu**er into a party.” Still looking every bit the straight-from-the-street-corner emcee seen in those early Clan videos, Deck, sporting an oversized Champion sweatshirt and baseball cap, set the night off in no uncertain terms with his verses from the Wu anthems “Protect Ya Neck” and “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing Ta F’Wit” followed by “For Heavens Sake” from 1997’s “Wu-Tang Forever” album.

Quick to reassure any fans who might have been expecting the worst, Deck humbly acknowledged the low crowd numbers but stated that it didn’t matter whether he was performing for thousands or hundreds, he was appreciative of any support he was given and would always deliver a show, commenting on how the “intimate” surroundings would allow him to get “up close and personal”, proving his point by jumping offstage to perform the classic “C.R.E.A.M.” amidst a sea of mobile phones held aloft to capture the moment.

The Inspectah’s performance was strong and fast-paced. Rather than dropping endless songs from his own solo catalogue, the Shaolin soldier instead worked his way through a set list that would read like a “Best Of Deck” mixtape, including specific verses from various Wu bangers as well as some of the Rebel’s most memorable collaborations.

The rumbling bass of the timeless “Triumph” drew loud cheers as Deck delivered his brilliant “I bomb atomically…” verse with crystal-clear precision, whilst his rhymes from GZA’s “Cold World” and Raekwon’s “Guillotine (Swordz)”  were also received well.

Shouting out fallen legends Big Pun and Guru, Deck also dropped his intricate verbals from the BX giant’s “Tres Leches (Triboro Trilogy)” and Gang Starr’s “Above The Clouds”, before walking back into the crowd for an Ol’ DB tribute, performing both “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” and “Brooklyn Zoo” in their entirety with virtually the whole crowd excitedly rhyming along with Deck word-for-word.

Taking a moment out to speak to the audience, Deck thanked everyone for supporting the Wu throughout the years, sounding both honest and sincere as he stated what a blessing he felt it was to still be on worldwide stages doing what he loved so long after he first picked up the mic as a youngster on Staten Island.

After a freestyle over the Gap Band’s 80s soul favourite “Outstanding”, a lengthy acappella rhyme that perfectly captured Deck’s talent for vivid, descriptive wordplay and his verse from Pete Rock’s 1998 gem “Tru Master”, the Clansman brought the hour-plus show to a close before retiring to the bar to graciously take photos and conversate with the people.

Feeling like a mix between a VIP gig and a rowdy house party, what could have been a show that was remembered for all the wrong reasons was saved thanks to Inspectah Deck’s professionalism, enthusiasm and genuine respect for his fans.

Wu-Tang, it would seem, is indeed forever.

Ryan Proctor

Inspectah Deck’s Ol’ Dirty tribute at London’s Jazz Cafe.