Report Kanye West takes on London Koko with all-conquering, last-minute late show
A unique occasion and a supporting cast helps define a night that truly belongs to the big draw - West himself.
Think pieces flooded the Internet after Kanye West’s Brits performance last week. Depending on which side of the cynicism fence you fell on, it was either an anti-authoritarian boost for grime - a genre constantly pushed to the fringes of society - or a wilfully hilarious censoring of pop music’s most notorious loudmouth. Whichever way you fall is ultimately irrelevant; it quickly became clear that Kanye’s interest in the UK’s bubbling grime scene was far from fleeting as he announced he was to ‘do a Prince’ (that’s put on a last-minute surprise show in Camden) just hours ahead of a supposed stage time of 11pm, and Boy Better Know grime superhero Skepta swiftly followed up with word that he’d be rocking up to Camden town alongside Ye.
Two hours late to the stage though they may be (it’s a Kanye show, what were you expecting?), it’s the latter of those two aforementioned stars who kick starts proceedings, with Skepta and his BBK cohorts launching straight into scene mega-hit ‘That’s Not Me’. Camden erupts, morphing in milliseconds into a writhing, multi-limbed mass of gun fingers and discarded, very expensive-looking clothing. As Novelist, JME, Meridian Dan and co lead things through renditions of ‘German Whip’ and other such crossover smashes, the energy is unstoppable.
West himself - tonight’s true draw, in spite of his best intentions - inevitably attracts the most fevered response as he darts on and off stage. The relatively tiny platform is shared almost equally between BBK and Ye’s own crew, which itself boasts Big Sean and crooner Vic Mensa among its ranks. There’s a playful haphazardness - with just a flickering projector screen for a backdrop (and one that keeps crashing at that), the two groups toy with each other, bounding about the stage with gleefully unchoreographed abandon. A beaming smile can even be seen on Ye’s face on more than one occasion - a refreshing change from all the scowling pap-shots plastered all over gossip sites at the start of the year.
A thunderous ‘Power’ marks an early standout, Kanye relishing the rare opportunity of the intimate setting and allowing the audience to take the lead on many of the big hits’ hooks. Between them comes the debut of a soulful new track alongside Mensa and the addition of Wu Tang Clan’s Raekwon for a brief run through of ‘C.R.E.A.M.’, but it’s the almost medley-like speed with which Ye fires out ‘Good Life’ into ‘All Of The Lights’, and ‘Black Skinhead’ into ‘Blood On The Leaves’ which really steal the show. The scrapbook-esque nature of the night comes to a fitting close with a double drop of new single ‘All Day’, both crews coming together for a pared down recreation of that soon-to-be iconic Brits performance. Whether that long awaited grime resurgence may finally take flight with Kanye’s helping hand remains to be seen, but as the two collectives get low - and the crammed in crowd do their best to follow suit - the genre’s never looked in better stead, and the Atlantic Ocean’s hip-hop divide has never seemed so small.
That’s Not Me
All Me (Drake cover)
Can’t Tell Me Nothing
I Don’t Fuck With You
All Of The Lights
It Ain’t Safe
Blood On The Leaves
C.R.E.A.M. (Wu-Tang Clan cover with Raekwon)
All Day (x2)