Venue: The Underworld, London Date: 11 May 2011
Close to the end of their month long European tour, Ill Bill and Vinnie Paz’s stop in London was without doubt one of this year’s most anticipated gigs so far. Having inherited the same hybrid fanbase of Hip-Hop heads, rock dudes and skater-types that Cypress Hill and House Of Pain once attracted, it was obvious from the outset that this particular show was going to be just a little different to your typical rap event.
Packed with drunk, tatted-up white dudes clad in La Coka Nostra / Jedi Mind Tricks t-shirts chanting “Bill! Bill! Bill!” and “Vinnniie!” long before the pair had even hit the stage, Camden’s dark and humid subterranean Underworld venue was perhaps the perfect spot for the Heavy Metal Kings’ brand of grimy, aggressive rap.
After strong, well-received sets from UK acts Grit Grammar and Rhyme Asylum, Non-Phixion’s DJ Eclipse took to the mic to announce the arrival of the headlining act. Hitting the stage to the sound of the HMK banger “Keeper Of The Seven Keys”, Bill and Vinnie drew thunderous roars from the crowd setting an energy level that remained high for the duration of the duo’s hour-plus set.
No gimmicks and no theatrics, the Brooklyn native and Philly emcee powered through their hardcore repertoire, drawing on material not just from the Heavy Metal Kings release, but also the catalogues of Non-Phixion, Jedi Mind Tricks, Army Of The Pharoahs, La Coka Nostra plus their own solo work.
With the gravelly-voiced Paz appearing more subdued than he was at last year’s London JMT show, it was left mainly to Bill to fill the gaps between tracks, displaying a dry sense of humour that only seemed to run out when, after playing peacekeeper between two fighting audience members, the pair’s scuffle led to the monitors being pushed out of place on the front of the stage – “You’re f**kin’ boring me now!” the agitated Non-Phixion member yelled at the two knuckleheads. “I actually don’t care now if you beat the sh*t out of each other or not, just leave the f**kin’ monitors alone!”
Cuts such as Non-Phixion’s conspiracy-driven “Black Helicopters”, Vinnie’s solo joint “Monster’s Ball” and LCN’s “F**k Tony Montana” were all delivered with fiery determination by the duo, with the show being nothing short of an hour-long adrenaline rush. Inbetween dropping sonic bombs, Bill and Paz gave props to their favourite rock acts such as Slayer, dropped a dedication to Gang Starr’s Guru and poked fun at the British accent, with Ill Bill joking that he thought the crowd was going to be a “bunch of Napoleon Dynamite-looking muthaf**kers”, to which Vinnie responded “Nah, the goons came out tonight” whilst surveying the rowdy scene.
Considering the pair’s lyrical content can often have a socio-political slant complete with anti-government rhetoric, it would have been interesting to hear Bill and Vinnie talk a little more about the inspiration behind certain tracks and their own take on current world issues, but perhaps that’s something they’d both prefer to keep for interviews rather than discuss onstage.
To their critics, the music of Ill Bill and Vinnie Paz is excessively violent and harsh purely for the sake of shock value. But let’s not forget that the likes of NWA, The Geto Boys and Onyx dropped some classic Hip-Hop moments whilst also fighting off criticism of being over-the-top in their music.
To their fans, however, the line between what should be considered food for thought (Ill Bill’s “The Anatomy Of A School Shooting”) and what should be considered pure hardcore entertainment (AOTP’s “Bloody Tears”) appears fairly clear.
Whether or not this Heavy Metal Kings project is a one-off remains to be seen, but judging by the quality of the performance witnessed on this particular night, Vinnie Paz and Ill Bill definitely have what it takes to follow in the footsteps of other perfectly matched duos such as Run DMC and EPMD and go down in the Hip-Hop hall of fame together.
Definitely a show to remember for all the right reasons.