Citizens of the world will wake up in one of three states this morning. Those ambivalent to the cult of Kanye West (in which case stop reading now). Those unable to attend last night’s surprise show at Koko, crippled by FOMO, who are living vicariously through social media. Or those who were in attendance, and are currently rubbing both sleep and the golden-dust of dreams from their crust-ridden eyes.
The show - which you’ll undoubtedly know about because you’re a living, breathing human with a plethora of social media accounts - was announced at 7pm yesterday evening. Tickets went on sale immediately and were sold out as quickly as you'd expect. Capacity was around 1,500 and stage time was set for 11pm. Those minute details alone promised something special - Kanye usually plays huge arena shows, booked months in advance, and having announced the release of a new record days earlier, it seemed like last night was going to be the moment he slewed an all-you-can-eat buffet of fresh music.
So, because I’m a human who likes music in 2015, I mashed my keyboard, sent texts to everyone in the phonebook, bought tickets, and headed down to London’s Koko. Here’s how one of the G.O.A.T rap shows went down...
SHIT WAS LATE
One thing everyone knows about rap shows - they never run on time. Kanye had originally planned to play the smaller XOYO club before switching hours before show time - and that meant start time was way over. 11pm passed, then midnight, and before long it was approaching 1am and we were stood outside, waiting. People like Tim Westwood - perhaps as part of Kanye’s recent mission to diminish class divide - were stood at the front of the queue with everyone else, clucking tongues, licking lips, and anxiously checking phones.
THE STAGE LOOKED LIKE A HOUSE PARTY IN RAP HEAVEN
Pretty soon we were inside though, and things kicked off straight away. The night wasn’t unlike a birthday party, as Kanye was joined by what we seemed like every artist he's repping right now: Big Sean, Vic Mensa, Cyhi the Prince, Skepta, Novelist, Meridian Dan, JME, even Raekwon. The structure was essentially brief sets from all of the guests followed by lengthier bouts from Kanye. This kicked off with Skepta’s “That’s Not Me”, followed by GOOD Music’s “Mercy”. Then “German Whip” and “96 Fuckries” smashed straight into “So Appalled” and “Cold”.
The Boy Better Know presence was far more than the "backing dancer" accusation they had leveled at them for the Brits performance. In fact, in the spaces between tracks it seemed half as many voices were yelling “BBK” as were yelling “Yeezy”. With Skepta then dropping his most recent release “Shutdown” to the sort of frenzied reception normally reserved for a Tesco Home Plus on Black Friday, it was clear that the current US-hip-hop-UK-grime love-in is far from appropriation. Skepta probably summed it up best by never once mentioning Kanye’s name, choosing only to shout: “BOY BETTER KNOW FOREVER!”
AFTER LAST NIGHT, I NOW FUX WITH BIG SEAN
He probably got the most stage-time behind the North London squad. Dark Sky Paradise got a name check before he ran into “Blessings” with Drake - who was unfortunately only present over the PA. During “I Don’t Fuck With You” it was striking how much people are mad into Big Sean right now - not that this is necessarily a surprise but it can be hard to tell whether he is genuinely popular or just collaborating with really popular people. Vic Mensa also got a chance to drop a new track “U Mad”, after which he kept shouting “GOOD Music”, maybe indicating where we'll hear his future releases.
IT WAS ALL RILED UP WITH NO TIME FOR REFLECTION
Then Yeezy. Aggression. Far from the tenderness we’ve been seeing in performances of “Only One” recently, Ye was gassed. Grinning and screaming his way through the likes of “Clique”, “New Slaves”, “All of the Lights” and “Black Skinhead”, he even managed to make “Good Life” seem pretty raw. Backed by a rolling slideshow of ecclesiastical imagery, there was a palpable spontaneity about everything. It was almost as if Kanye had decided to do the show that afternoon, called Skepta, made a Powerpoint, booked a venue.
WHOEVER WAS WORKING THE POWERPOINT IS MORE DEAD THAN MADONNA’S DANCERS
In what seemed like a repeat of DJ Mano - the ex-DJ who infamously screwed up Kanye’s live shows to comic embarrassment - there was a brief moment when Kanye appeared human. Pointing toward his Powerpoint slideshow, he asked the technicians to move from slide to slide. “Go to the other slide”, he said. “Next”, he said, waiting for the perfect backdrop for “Jesus Walks”. Then, as usually happens when you’re clicking through slideshows, the luminous glow of a macbook background and finder window appeared. There was nervous laughter in the crowd. We’d peered through Kanye’s ego, and seen his homescreen.
THERE WERE NO RANTS
Other than the already heard “Wolves” with Vic Mensa, and finally two runs of “All Day”, we weren’t treated to any new material. There were no lengthy rants and barely any set. There even only seemed to be about two microphones, one of which Ye had to chase Skepta off stage for when he forgot to hand it over. With the introduction of Wu-Tang’s Raekwon toward the end of the set - who performed “C.R.E.A.M” - the night seemed like a formally announced merger of transglobal hip-hop’s past and present. Skepta and Novelist. Kanye and Raekwon. All four of them on stage together. And backed up by their respective crews.
The night was lit. If you were there, you’ll no doubt know, having been heated by the energy of some of hip-hop’s most exciting players sharing the stage together. If you weren’t, here’s all the important videos to feast on:
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