I’m not going to lie to you, I grew up in a middle-class suburban haze of Land Rovers and afternoon tea but Grime and the underground culture that surrounds it resonates with me. Since 2002, Channel U and Boy in da Corner, I’ve been hooked. Skepta is no exception; call him a guilty pleasure or just plain genius, after last night’s gig at the Rainbow Warehouse it’s looking like Konnichiwa is two years well spent. Skepta encapsulates a sound that transcends genres but still remains relevant, British and ultimately very good.
Grime has had its ups and downs over the years; Dizzee dropped off the earth and found Calvin Harris nestled in a bargain bin of shutter shades, Tinchy and The Chuckle Brothers actually happened and James Cordon stuck his oar in with Dizzee in ‘Shout for England’, which nobody wanted. This is why so many people come together for acts like Skepta; when Grime is good, it’s really, really good. There’s something about hunting out the best parts of the scene, noting where it makes fun of itself (Roll Safe/Red Hot Entertainment) and finding true grimy gems that is so satisfying.
The album Konnichiwa only dropped last Friday and it’s been on repeat ever since with highlights such as ‘Lyrics’, ‘Crime Riddim’ and ‘Text Me Back’. Then with some slick marketing akin to Beyonce, show dates were announced and quickly sold out. After two years, Skepta has come back with a complete work in Konnichiwa with more than one radio hit as well as plenty of old school references to keep the grime heads happy; he’s not given into the American influence too much bar Pharell’s production on ‘Numbers’, whilst different, is still a welcome return to those emblematic Neptunes/Star Trak beats.
Despite overseas acts licking his balls, Skepta remains at the forefront of this success, with impromptu releases and holding the Konnichiwa gigs in warehouse locations providing that underground, illicit feeling. This is what true Grime is for me – low budget, raw, minimal and authentic. No one but the mainstream media gives a shit that Drake has signed to BBK, it’s not about that clickbait, man don’t care about all that.
Last night’s gig took place at the Rainbow Warehouse in Digbeth. I’ve not been to the Rainbow in so long it felt great to be back in an old haunt watching this unfold. In a sea of black tracksuits and snapbacks, Skepta stands out as the alpha in a white hoody opening with his title track Konnichiwa; anyone who’s left at the bar or in the smoking area at this point rushes to catch a glimpse and from then on in it’s hands in the air and the energy is palpable.
Understandably most of the set list is from Konnichiwa with some older tracks; I Spy and Nasty where he called out local MC Devilman to the crowd, opening up old beef that started in 2006 with a Lord of the Mics 2 clash and subsequent song disses ever since. Last night Skepta shouts out “Devilman, where are you?!” to a crowded room of Brummies – mic drop.
The gig ends with the anthem ‘Shutdown’ and newest single ‘Man’ by this point I’ve been dancing for an hour and half in a manner that would be deemed culturally inappropriate by some I’m sure and I don’t want it to end. Like it or not Skepta’s a Grime hero and he’s cementing his place globally with his sound, doing it his own way. I still miss Channel U but as long as there are artists that incite this kind of hype, style and grit, I’m happy.
Shout out to my ones, my team.