Clare Conlon enjoys powerful stuff from this emerging talent


Mary Anne Hobbs proves she isn’t just honeyed tones coming out of your DAB speakers, with her curation of the Dark Matter series – at least if the Kojey Radical gig at Gorilla is anything to go by. The sixth of eight 'immersive' shows for Manchester International Festival 2017, featuring a support set from the BBC Radio 6 Music DJ herself, the band had the crowd mesmerised. 

I’m not sure what was immersive about it, other than being in a room with a bunch of people enjoying a show, and the 'transformation' of the venue, described in the press release as 'creating new universes for each artist' by lighting designer and visual artist Stuart Bailes wasn’t much to write home about, really. There were lights, and the Turbine Hall-esque sun-style backdrop added some contrast to the stage, but hey. Anyway, that aside… 

I picked up on Kojey Radical out of the eight dates because of his growing reputation for street poetry – a man of many talents, he’s equal parts poet, musician, film-maker and visual artist. His lyrics are complex, sometimes dark (as in recent single Gallons), and he sings, raps and speaks them throughout the performance, blending the personal – “I liked this girl once, I was convinced she liked me…” - with the political – “We no longer need to close our fists for the revolution.” However, “I don’t rap,” Kojey said in an interview with Dazed, “I write poems, the music comes later.” 

But that music was great – guitar with bass effects, keys and loops, and drumming that was on another level: really sensitive to the words and the delivery of said words. A musician friend wouldn’t shut up about it. I’m a bit of an old-skool hip-hop fan, but this crazy mash-up also ticked the prog rock box along with improv jazz – right down to the “… and on drums!” breakdown of the band before what was supposed to be their final number, latest release After Winter (they came back for an unanticipated encore, such was the love from the audience – apparently quite a contrast to three years ago when they appeared in Manchester with Young Fathers). 

Twitter was full of praise. “One of the most amazing gigs I’ve ever seen,” read one post. Another: “Kojey Radical smashed it last night. What a presence! What a show!” 

Powerful stuff. And you can catch Kojey Radical again at The Deaf Institute in October, when he hinted he “might get naked earlier”. Yep, he took his top off.

Kojey Radical, Gorilla, Thurs 13 July

Kojey Radical
Kojey Radical