Posted by Rough Dispatch.
Reviewed on 31st October 2016.
Live at Belgrave Music Hall on Friday, 28th October 2016
The names Ghetts, Frisco, AJ Tracey and Elf Kid on one bill is enough to make any grime fan a bit feverish. The line-up is appropriately ordered by age and album output. But considering how white-hot grime and UK rap is right now, the audience is a little disappointingly, wall-to-wall male, begging me to ponder where all the other female grime fans are.
Positivity arsonist Elf Kid (read his tweets), opens the night by bursting on stage as though it's his personal duty to detonate everyone's problems into dust. He smashes through menacingly bouncy Jamie XX produced 'Oh Gosh' with fire and precision. He leaps about on stage, ordering the crowd to "ramp it up" and they obey before hurtling through Amerie-sampling radio-pleasing sonic wonder 'Golden Boy'. I never thought I'd see 18-year-old boys moshing to a 00s anthem dedicated to sass-ness but it's a testament to this teenager's achievement. Radiating confidence and joy, Lewisham High Street's golden boy is pleasantly surprising.
Immediately following Elf Kid's departure, AJ Tracey appears onstage in his freshest roadman chic fashion. Despite being a relative newcomer, AJ Tracey has racked up millions of YouTube views. His persona is more intense that Elf Kid's and his style is entrenched in street life. It's a poignant moment when he looks down at the floor during the opening lyric "tell the peng tings to stand up" on Leave Me Alone, because by now, there are still only 6 of us. But that doesn't stop the crowd from ebulliently yelling back his lyrics and generally hyping themselves to shit. Zeph Ellis' produced track (originally used for Kano's GarageSkank) is expertly and respectfully used as a bed for Tracey to spray 'Naila' all over. Notable absences from his set are the MJ Cole produced 'The Rumble', 'Wifey Riddim' and Coco's 'Big N Serious'. Even though he's not "trying to do road", AJ Tracey looks the roadman part, with added lyrical versatility, street rawness and straight-faced Yu-Gi-Oh references.
An hour later, Boy Better Know stalwart Frisco strolls fashionably late and in typical grime-star fashion: a massive orange coat and black baseball cap. He breezes through '123', released in 2015 but sounds as though it was conceived at the dawn of grime and travelled through all incarnations of the genre, stampeding into the present moment to knock everyone's tits off. It's Big Fris' brawling-talk anthem. He cuts down his critics with 'Out Here' and the crowd are understandably, nuts. Both tracks get wheel ups into the first verse to which Frisco responds with an almost-angry 'Fuck!' After a swift fling-off of the orange Michelin Man coat, Frisco is looks like he's about to get serious and he does with 'Them Man There' with more lyrical slays, badman posturing whilst sonically paying homage to video games. Standard gig antics follow when a "wanker" tries to take off Frisco's shoe, gets publically shamed and gives the mob a taste of blood, building up any buried male aggression, ready for the next song. Frisco climaxes his set with his verse on timeless, classic grime anthem, 'Too Many Men' exclaiming very truthfully that "we need some more girls in here". Anyone who is not moved by a live performance of 'Too Many Men' is scientifically dead inside. Whilst Frisco's songs demand energy and aggression he manages to spray in an easy, relaxed way. He finally ends with a couple of hype-inducing Skepta songs which perfectly illustrates the big, welcoming nature of the grime genre, where its stars tenaciously support each other. Even though Frisco's performance is remarkable, I still mourn the absence of guitar-bashing, reggae-stomping genius 'Different Kind' and Chip-featuring saxophones-go-hood anthem 'Are You?'
At 12.40am, Ghetts emerges confidently onstage, like he should as a headlining MC. His mix of bullish charisma, lyrical capability, fighting trash talk and an ear for gigantically pummelling beats is what makes him an utter legend of the genre. He launches into hard-to-ignore 'Who's Got A Problem?' sonically expressing all the male angst in the room and sending out threatening thoughts of a circle pit. Sure enough, following a lights-down, camera-flashes-in-the-air request from Ghetts, the opening of 'Esco's Spirit' gives way into a gleefully punishing circle pit, demanding a couple of wheel ups. Energetically, it's the climax of the night. Personal favourite, 'Artillery' follows, tearing its joyful belligerence into the room, bashing any doubters over the head. Ghetts' lyrical prowess and ability to pick ominous beats and craft a song so perfect way back in 2010 stands out, for me, as the ultimate war song. He ends, in the best way possible with 2015's rabble-rousing, "wicked and bad" mosh-pit anthem, 'One Take'. The audience willingly participate and this grime-star line up ends on a high.