Tag Archives: Jazz Cafe

Live Review – Pharoahe Monch

pharoage monch flyers

Venue: Jazz Cafe, London  Date: 16 March 2015

There are some things in the world of Hip-Hop that are as good as guaranteed. Wu-Tang will always be for the children, DJ Premier will always be the king of the scratched hook, and Pharoahe Monch will always deliver a memorable show.

Regardless of how many times you may have witnessed the gifted Queens, NY emcee rock a stage, you never leave feeling like you’ve simply watched an artist going through the motions, or that Monch hasn’t given a performance his all.

Pharoahe’s latest sold-out gig at London’s Jazz Cafe was no different.

Backed by turntable titan DJ Boogie Blind and talented UK band Ezra Collective, with Kamron of Young Black Teenagers fame acting as an engaging hype-man, Monch expertly navigated the mixed crowd of older heads and younger fans through sixty-plus minutes of intricate verbal gymnastics, pounding beats and brilliant showmanship.

Arriving onstage with minimal fanfare, the Organized Konfusion lyricist spent a few moments silently pacing back-and-forth like a boxer on fight night, focussing on the task at hand before launching into an urgent blast of the Black Thought-assisted “Rapid Eye Movement” from his recent “PTSD” album.

Closely followed by spirited performances of the synth-heavy”Agent Orange” and police protest song “Clap (One Day)”, Monch took the opportunity to comment on the recent Stateside events in Ferguson, encouraging everyone in the packed venue to clap their hands as he passionately rhymed acapella, resulting in a poignant moment of interaction between artist and audience.

Whilst the sweating emcee exited the stage for a short break, it was left to Boogie Blind to entertain the crowd, with the X-ecutioners representative dropping a quick-fire routine which found LL Cool J’s timeless “Rock The Bells” being skillfully deconstructed and reconstructed at breath-taking speed, once again proving that turntablism is something that really needs to be seen as well as heard in order to be fully appreciated.

As the lights were turned down low and a single chair placed centre-stage, Pharoahe made his return to dramatically deliver two of the darkest tracks from “PTSD”, the moody “Time2” and sombre “Broken Again”.

Sitting down, head in his hands, Monch communicated the raw emotion of each track’s subject matter via his body language and facial expressions as much as he did through the actual lyrics, at one point using a toy gun to simulate his own death.

After a brief display of skin-tight musicianship from the members of Ezra Collective, Monch lifted the mood, encouraging the crowd to sing the hook of his Rawkus-era single “My Life”, which then led into the intense gospel-feel of the Alchemist-produced “Desire” and the radio-favourite “Oh No”, with Pharoahe pausing to pay a sincere tribute to the late Nate Dogg.

Taking a moment to give Kendrick Lamar props for his latest album, the boundary-pushing wordsmith encouraged the crowd to respect the craft of lyricism and help “preserve the culture”, as right-hand man Kamron stood to the side nodding intently.

With the horn section who had arrived onstage moments before then replaying the opening Godzilla sample of Monch’s signature late-90s banger “Simon Says”, the audience was immediately turned into a rowdy mass of jumping bodies, as the grinning emcee gleefully delivered the track’s infamous instructional hook.

Returning for a brief encore which included the Organized Konfusion classic “Bring It On”, the veteran microphone fiend graciously thanked the crowd for their continued support, leaving the stage to the sound of Keni Burke’s 80s quiet storm anthem “Risin’ To The Top”.

In a rap world which finds here-today-gone-tomorrow acts consistently receiving undeserved accolades and attention, Pharoahe Monch continues to stand as a shining example of genuine talent, creativity and artistic authenticity.

Organized Konfusion’s 1994 single “Stress” found Monch posing the question, “Why must you believe that something is fat just because it’s played on the radio twenty times per day?”

Over two decades later, Pharoahe is still providing a worthwhile alternative to the redundant and shallow product which is repeatedly being pushed and promoted by the mainstream music industry.

Thankfully, if the capacity crowd at this particular show was anything to go by, there are still plenty of people out there who’re willing to listen.

Ryan Proctor

Footage of Pharoahe Monch performing “Broken Again” and “The Jungle” at London’s Jazz Cafe.

 

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 – 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 – Large Professor / Cormega

Venue: Jazz Cafe, London  Date: 26 September 2012

Few individuals embody the essence of Hip-Hop like Flushing, Queens legend Large Professor. From his early beginnings as a student of the late, great studio wiz Paul C., to Main Source’s 1991 classic “Breaking Atoms” and his production / remix work for the likes of Nas, Common and Gang Starr, on to his own solo material, Extra P has always remained loyal to the true-school blueprint that influenced the music and culture he grew-up on in 80s / 90s NYC.

Although Large Pro might not have worked with as many known household names as some of his production peers such as DJ Premier and Q-Tip, his legacy, catalogue and reputation remain unrivalled in Hip-Hop circles, resulting in the “live guy with glasses” being cherished as something of a hero amongst rap purists.

So it was no surprise then that the announcement of Large Professor’s first London show in roughly a decade sent a wave of excitement amongst UK Hip-Hop junkies within travelling distance of the capital city.

Queensbridge’s very own Cormega opened the show with DJ Skizz manning the turntables, entertaining both the rowdy front row and remainder of the crowd with a selection of hood favourites from cult albums such as “The Realness” and “The True Meaning”. Draped in a white lounge suit topped off with a tilted baseball cap, Mega Montana stalked the stage with purpose, barely able to contain his glee as loyal fans rapped decade-old tracks word-for-word whilst reaching out for a handshake or to wave record covers in the air hoping for a signature from their QB champion. Eager to keep his supporters happy, Nas’s former rival threw the set list aside, telling Skizz to skip past certain tracks in order to keep the momentum going. A tactic which led to a somewhat disjointed performance, but one that ultimately kept those dedicated Mega die-hards pushed tightly against the stage happy enough.

Large Pro made his way down the Jazz Cafe stairs immediately after Cormega’s final track to the sound of loud cheers and applause, appearing a little overwhelmed as he settled into his place in the spotlight, announcing “We’re here!” before launching straight into the timeless Main Source classic “Peace Is Not The Word To Play” which was followed by the brilliant “Snake Eyes”.

Barely pausing between tracks, Extra P literally powered his way through a non-stop selection of quality bangers from the past, present and everywhere inbetween. The rolling drums of the Marco Polo-produced “The Radar” boomed from the speakers to an enthusiastic crowd response, whilst further Main Source sureshots such as “Just A Friendly Game Of Baseball” and “Just Hangin’ Out” took those in attendance further down memory lane, with Large Pro’s voice sounding as clear and commanding today as it did on those original tracks some twenty years ago.

Taking a moment to thank everyone for their support (which the Professor stated helped to “keep (him) alive”), the king from Queens continued on his musical mission, dropping the smooth Nas-assisted “Stay Chisel” (asking the crowd “You know whose voice that is, right?” as Mr. Jones could be heard reciting the hook), along with the crisp “Radioactive” from 2002’s “1st Class” album and the sublime 90s classic “I JusWannaChill”.

Of course no Large Professor performance would be fully complete without a few signature tracks and the multi-talented producer-on-the-mic didn’t disappoint, leading the crowd in a call-and-response session over the pounding bass of “Fakin’ The Funk”, reliving past relationship dramas with “Looking At The Front Door” and spitting his rapid-fire rhymes from the classic posse cut “Live At The Barbeque” with the hunger and determination of an upcoming artist rather than the been-there-done-that approach of a proven veteran.

Reuniting with Cormega for “Focused Up” from his recent “Professor @ Large” album (strangely there was no performance of the popular “Key To The City”), Extra P then exited the stage, leaving his NY ally to sign an endless stream of autographs as he headed for the dressing-room.

A brilliant display of pure, uncut beats and rhymes, Large Pro’s London performance could only have further cemented his well-deserved reputation as a genuine Hip-Hop icon amongst those who were there. Salute!

Ryan Proctor

Footage of Large Professor at the Jazz Cafe filmed by Shortee Blitz.

Live Review – The Beatnuts

Venue: Jazz Cafe, London  Date: 31 August 2012

The Beatnuts may have started off as a three-man crew (with the inimitable Fashion making up the third of the trio), but following their reduction to a two- man unit after the release of their brilliant 1994 debut album, Queens, NY producers-on-the-mic Psycho Les and Junkyard JuJu have gone on to join the ranks of Run DMC and EPMD as one of Hip-Hop’s most cherished rhyming partnerships. The Nuts’ potent blend of dusty grooves, boom-bap drums and raucous, politically-incorrect lyrical content has resulted in a lengthy list of Hip-Hop classics and a die-hard fanbase, plenty of whom were in attendance at this lively London gig.

After some brief technical problems, JuJu kicked things off after midnight from behind his lap-top set-up with a short instrumental intro, before being joined onstage by Psycho Les, sporting dark shades and carrying a hefty bottle of alchohol which kept the pair’s cups filled throughout the performance.

With no frills and no over-the-top theatrics , the duo launched head-first into the thumping “Originate”, as Les roamed the stage with bristling b-boy attitude, pausing only to readjust his sagging jeans and take a slug of his drink as JuJu moved from behind his computer to take centre-stage.

Although the lack of a deejay may have hampered the performance of a less-experienced act, JuJu needing to constantly duck back behind his laptop to cue the next track didn’t necessarily have an adverse or disruptive impact on the show. With years of rocking stages under their belts, Les and JuJu obviously know their catalogue of material inside out and their larger-than-life personalities ensured any potential glitches were pushed aside with charismatic humour (“Y’know, I’m not really into this technology s**t,” JuJu had joked whilst initially struggling to set his equipment up at the beginning of the show).

The adrenaline-pumping “Beatnuts Forever” provoked a rowdy reaction from the crowd, as to did the  crashing drums of the ultimate beer-drinking, weed-smoking anthem “Psycho Dwarf” from the group’s unforgettable 1993 EP “Intoxicated Demons”.

JuJu’s voice was clearly becoming more hoarse as the Nuts’ progressed further into their set, the result of numerous shows and late nights in Europe prior to the pair spending hours waiting for a delayed flight to the UK. Persisting with his gruff vocal tones, the gravel-voiced beat-digger drew laughs from the audience as he commented on how much he sounded like Onyx member Sticky Fingaz, before managing an almost pitch-perfect rendition of the intro to the Mad Face favourite “Throw Ya Gunz”.

Further timeless Nut nuggets such as the playful “No Escapin’ This” and brilliant 90s gem “No Equal” satisfied those looking to see the duo delivering their trademark bangers, whilst Les and JuJu also took the opportunity to test-drive some new material which apparently was only “on Serato exclusive for the Jazz Cafe.”

Exuding the same cocky bravado and love for raw Hip-Hop that enamoured them to rap fans twenty years ago, the Beatnuts first UK appearance in the best part of a decade proved to be a more than successful return for the kings of diggin’.

The New York City duo definitely still get props over here.

Ryan Proctor

The Beatnuts debut new material at the Jazz Cafe.