“Everybody needs a platform and we need to create that for ourselves” said Tony Wilson, one half of hip-hop duo Wilson Miles. Billed as a showcase of independent hip-hop from both the USA and Britain, Crescent City Nights returned to London at the Ritzy in Brixton, giving a platform to unsigned acts from Europe and across the pond.
Thanks to the transatlantic approach of the night, there was a fantastic diversity of genres. Hackney based rapper J Ibz kicked off the night with his track ‘Legacy’. He’s an up and coming rapper and producer with an introspective and lyrical style. DJ Billski and UK Principle brought a reggae and hip-hop infusion to the night, with veteran UK Principle smoothly crooning as Billski spat to ‘War in the City’, a unique grime and reggae concoction. Keemy!, who performed straight after a fourteen-hour shift, is both a UK rapper and producer who makes beats in a smooth alternative hip-hop style that would make Phonte or MF Doom feel comfortable spitting on.
A. Levy brought the sound of the New Orleans underground to the table. He’s a veteran of the Big Easy’s underground scene and has shared the stage with acts such as Jay Electronica, N*E*R*D and Wiz Khalifa. He also owns the Hut Studio, a recording studio in New Orleans. Opening with a jazz inspired track, you could clearly see that A. Levy is an established and refined performer. He’s so precise and smooth throughout his set, with his verses sounding just as polished on stage as he does in the studio.
But back to the UK for a minute. M.A.C., who spent most of the night DJ’ing, left the decks to highlight his talents in rapping — which he does well. He opened by rapping over Mobb Deep’s ‘Shook Ones Pt. 2’, a sure-fire way of sounding gritty and hard of course, but M.A.C. did the iconic track justice through his strong bars and delivery. The quality continued in his own track ‘Myth 2.0’, a song about distancing yourself to find inner peace that’s backed by an ethereal zen like production. Following with ‘What a Feeling’, both songs are from his debut album Five Nineteen, released in July this year. His set was stellar and hopefully we’ll hear a lot more from him. Interestingly, M.A.C. has also collaborated several times with Warren D, one of the other acts, producing and hosting his 2015 EP Me, Myself & Rhymes Vol.2. Warren D has an old school boom bap feel, dropping knowledge in his verses and not subscribing to a negativity. He even performed a heartfelt ode to his wife.
Brit school graduate, actor and musician Troy Glasgow had one of the most intriguing sets of the night. Firstly, he started rapping acapella after segueing from a natural conversation with the audience. His music is politically charged, filled with complex metaphors that, especially on ‘Hegemony’, can veer between savage condemnation and sounding prayerful. Just like M.A.C., Glasgow decided to pay homage to a golden age song, namely through his ‘84 State of Mind’ a track heavily inspired by Nas’ N.Y. State of Mind. His performance was electric and instantly captivating, and his music is a brilliant demonstration of socially conscious rap.
Mr. Fox is an MC hailing from North London who recently released a music video for his song ‘For the Team’. Stylistically, Mr. Fox was a 180° from the other UK acts and is more closely, although not entirely, of a grime flavour. He has a hard-hitting street style packed with quotable punchlines and dark heavy basslines. It’s a shame he has only one song (‘For the Team’) on his Soundcloud (that was posted a year ago), because his other music is the type that would tear up any rave.
The international theme of the event didn’t just bring acts from the USA. In fact, one of the main highlights of the night was Ravy, part of the super talented Roman & Ravy, a rising hip-hop duo hailing from the Netherlands. Roman handles the production and Ravy raps and sings, hence why she alone appeared on the night. They both have heritage in Suriname which they draw from to incorporate into their music, alongside an infusion of EDM, pop, R&B and hip-hop. On ‘On Fleek’ you can hear a strong dancehall and Surinamese kaseko influence in the tempo and thundering drums. The song is hugely danceable and an instant ear-worm. It was also bolstered by Ravy’s incredible stage presence: she has a terrific energy and pops and locks along to her songs.
Brixton’s very own Milo Merah, supported by a terrific live band, delivered a spectacular, enchanting and refined performance. Nowhere were his soulful and smooth vocals stronger than on “Heavy to Hold” which was heartfelt and immediately mesmerising.
Fittingly, the hosts of Crescent City Nights are themselves a shining example of a transatlantic partnership. Wilson Miles composes of Tony Wilson, an MC from New Orleans and Hector Miles, a producer from London. Their 20-minute EP ‘Where There’s Smoke’ dropped in May this year and follows from their debut ‘The Golden Handshake’. Combining sharp multi-syllabic rhymes and vivid imagery, Wilson is an excellent rapper and live artist. As DJ, Miles blends southern rap sonics with boom bap, chopped and screw, electronic and experimental sounds. Together, their union fostered a solidly tight and masterful performance.
Due to time constraints, FRSHRZ, one of the listed acts, didn’t have time to perform. In July they launched their EP at the same venue and put on a wonderful show. It was a shame to have missed them but hopefully they will be back soon. That aside, Crescent City Nights stuck true to its ethos and was a brilliant independent showcase of talent. Fingers crossed, they’ll be back again.