Recently, after witnessing a pretty lacklustre performance by Ghostface Killer at Leeds University Stylus, I went on record as criticising the lack of vitality in Leeds live music scene when it came to hip hop.
Promoters and venues have booked a host of impressive hip hop and grime bookings throughout October and November
XXL Magazine 2016 Freshman Denzel Curry’s recent show at Nation of Shopkeepers seemed like a glistening diamond among the rough of past-prime performers doing by-the-numbers shows for a paycheck, and the occasional Rizzle Kicks gig at the O2 Academy (don’t get too excited, it’s been cancelled). Where was all of the new, exciting, relevant hip hop?
A couple of months later, and I’m eating my words. Promoters and venues have booked a host of impressive hip hop and grime bookings throughout October and November, ranging from stars of the UK to bonafide US legends, with a few wildcards in between. Here’s the pick of the best:
One of the most distinctive voices in grime, and one of the scene’s biggest breakout stars, Giggs headlines The Garage for a special show which showcases the history and future of grime, as he’s joined by OG grime DJ Slimzee going B2B with Grandmixxer, king of pirate radio Jammz, and more.
Before the show, Red Bull Music Academy will be hosting an exclusive conversation with Giggs at Kirkstall’s Prime Studios, as he talks about his career in the wider context of UK rap as a scene, authorities campaigning against big city nightlife, and the industry as a whole. Also keep an eye out for An Eye on Grime - a photographic exhibition capturing crews and performers at their energetic peak.
Thursday 27 October, The Garage. Tickets £15
Ghetts & Frisco
Beacons Metro is bringing a few big urban acts to Leeds this October and November, the biggest line-up being grime veteran Ghetts, joined by Boy Better Know’s Frisco, and upcoming talents Elf Kid and AJ Tracey.
Despite being active since 2003, Ghetts released his debut studio album Rebel With A Cause in 2014, cementing his status as grime elite.
Friday 28 October, Belgrave Music Hall. Tickets £15
As well known now for his enlightening talks on history and race - not to mention his perfect takedown of an EDL leader on live TV - as for his tracks like 2006 certified banger Shakespeare and breathtaking, legendary Fire In The Booth sessions, Akala is as much a teacher as he is an entertainer, and one of the most vital voices in UK music right now. This is one not to be missed.
Saturday 29 October, Belgrave Music Hall. Tickets £15
Two legends at two venues on one night - we’re spoilt for choice. Undisputed godfather of grime, founder of Roll Deep (which has at one time or another counted Dizzee, Skepta and Flowdan as members) and the legendary Eskimo Dance raves, Wiley is headlining Leeds University Union’s halloween party, joined by grime donnies Big Narstie and Logan Sama, with Redlight and Zinc getting the dance started elsewhere on the bill.
Saturday 29 October, Leeds University Union. Tickets £23
It’s a testament to the Birmingham rapper’s talent and consistency that Leshurr has effortlessly made her mark on such a London Male-centric scene, but one listen to her viral “Queens Speech” freestyles and you’ll see why she never had to worry about making an impact. Expect unique delivery, airtight flow, and pure energy from this show.
Sunday 20 October, Belgrave Music Hall. Tickets £12.50
Honing his craft through London’s network of pirate stations, Lewisham’s Novelist combines experienced performance and flow with unbridled youthful energy. His own eclectic catalogue of anthems, ad-libs and freestyles, as well as collaborations with Mumdance shows that this future face of the scene can spit a variety of styles with as much authority as grime.
Thursday 3 November, Belgrave Music Hall. Tickets £12.50
One of the most unique and recognisable figures in contemporary hip hop, Detroit’s Danny Brown comes to Leeds for a headline show at Stylus to support his new album Atrocity Exhibition.
Named after the Joy Division song about insane asylums where the public paid to watch patients, the album is a much more grown up, introspective look at the artist’s psyche than casual fans might expect - don’t expect any more allusions to the scent of penguins or cool ranch Doritos
Tuesday 15 November, Leeds University Stylus. Tickets £16.50
Self-proclaimed creator of lit-hop (as in literature, rather than “it’s lit fam”), Stanford University alumnus MC Lars gained a following among unlikely hip hop heads by sampling Brand New, Fugazi and Iggy Pop while referencing Hamlet, Edgar Allen Poe and Moby Dick.
The career that started on MySpace took him all over the world supporting the likes of Snoop Dogg, Nas, and T-Pain, and its now bringing him to The Key Club
Saturday 26 November, The Key Club. Tickets £8
An undisputed hip hop legend, you can bet Talib is in every one of your top five rappers’ top five rappers. Creatively rarely putting a foot wrong from his early days, through to Black Star with Mos Def, and his illustrious solo career including mid-noughties collaborations with Kanye, MF Doom and Pharrell, and more recent work with the likes of J. Cole and Kendrick, Kweli will have no shortage of material to draw from in this exclusive, intimate show.
Friday 2 December, The HiFi Club. Tickets £18.50