What a line up for the ‘Humanity For Palestine’ event ‘Freedom Sounds’. Firstly, salute to all the people involved for organising such a powerful event which raised money for multiple organisations working to end the occupation of Palestine. The line-up consisted of Dead Prez, Havoc, Lowkey and 47Soul. I mean that’s a faction you’d put up against D Generation X in the Attitude Era (Wrestling fans would get that reference!) I have to shout out family too. It’s such a blessing to see I am Hip Hop family Apex Zero filming, Nadia Otshudi taking photos, Dj Snuff on the decks and Mas law jumping on for a bit of hosting.
Dead Prez is one of the healthiest driving forces in Hip Hop that has ever existed; Books, Martial arts, Activist engagement for revolution, healthy living, respecting our beautiful queens, and so forth. They installed an embodiment of positive growth in our community, an impactful swing back against oppression and a nourishing take on well-being. Lowkey has an undying voice for the voiceless covering an extensive amount of controversies within our community and world-wide. As an active advocate for Palestinian rights, he was a prominent headliner on the night. His music alongside the mighty Dead Prez has given a vast amount of generations hope to stand up what is right. Havoc alongside Big Noyd…Thats the sound of New York Baby ! Every time you spin Mobb Deep, you have just paid a ticket to go to Queens New York, first class, champagne class, no crying babies on the plane and a limousine waiting for you to take you to where no man is safe from! So with that introduction to these acts, I was quite simply GASSED!
Right, this is the part where you hear about my evening and how it all came to fruition. I left my amazing fulfilling job which bit by bit helps keep young people out of unhealthy behaviours and provide a vessel for them to express themselves creatively. I then proceeded to Brixton to fight a place to neck down the closest pint available. Instead I was given a generous single shot of Wrey Nephew soda water and lime whilst eating a delicious meal at Picky Wops recommended by the Vegan food blogger Brixton Food Fiend. Unapologetic Plug…and no she’s not paying me! We scurried (yes I used the word scurried!) to the The Electric Brixton.
I had never heard Electro Arabic Dabke band 47 Soul before I walked in, however through the magazine’s support of them I had heard of them. Are they on my playlist now? Yes. Do I feel I’ve missed out over the years? Yes. Do I feel embarrassed that I didn’t know who they are? No. That’s how you discover new music people! Anyway after bouncing to the electronic soulful sounds of the critically acclaimed band, the crowd suddenly broadened their screams when Lowkey jumped out on one of their tracks. Women flocked to the front in hopes for some eye contact, a hair sample or a whiff of his aftershave, I’m joking but not really and also hating. That was the first appearance of the brother and I have to say he never seems to amaze me on how polarising he is went he steps on. Throughout the evening there were speeches from Nancy from Humanity for Palestine, Huda from The Palestine Solidarity Campaign, an acapella from an emerging Palestinian artist and a brief word from a brother speaking on behalf of Grenfell United. The stories, passion and pain displayed was a stinging reminder as to why we were there and the community we were fighting for, Justice!
I embraced a few other heads throughout the night including man like Shocka, who was rightfully praised and shouted out by Lowkey for his essential involvement in Hip Hop right now. I proceeded to consume more liquid courage and placed myself front row to witness the rest of the show.
Lowkey got an extravagant slow building introduction and jumped on wearing all black head first with hard hitting machine gun word play. Lowkey has an exceptional ability to work the crowd. His vocals were absolutely crystal clear as there isn’t too much going on with his instrumentals especially bass wise. Unfortunately Havoc and Dead Prez slightly suffered because of the sound issue in that space. The whole performance was soul food for the community. It was liberating to scream out lyrics like “You may take my life, but you can’t take my soul, you can’t take my soul ‘ and ‘They’re calling me a Terrorist, like they don’t know who the terror is, When they put it on me I tell them this, I’m all about peace and love’. Screaming those choruses were like warrior chants sang together from all walks of life standing against various demons that torment us physically, emotionally and mentally. Whether or not Lowkey is at the top of your list of emcees that have attacked the alphabet, his track ‘Alphabet Assassin’ is still an impressive piece of work and you’re still in awe watching it performed. I’ll Paraphrase on an interview I did 2 years ago with Samurai Chigudu, the associate professor of African Politics at the University of Oxford. He said that “when you come to a performance like Lowkey with flags of Palestine waving, people wearing hijabs, brown folks, black folks, white folks, old folks, young folks, showing each other love , that kind of ethos only happens at a Lowkey gig, Few others pull that off.” A pertinent point to the aura that Lowkey brings to his performances. His final song was something that brought me and so many to tears when I saw him perform it at the Coronet at Elephant and Castle ‘Ghosts of Grenfell’. However much they try to extinguish the passion to accomplish some kind of justice for the horrific tragedy in North Kensington, West London, moments like this , poetry like this, music like this motivates action, supplies closure and strengthens the bond we have for one another. Lowkey’s sounds dispersed into the background after another captivating set and DJ Snuff worked the turntables.
This is where the vibe didn’t just switch gears, it switched cars! Havoc and Big Noyd took the stage with the absences of the late great Prodigy.
It was the first time for me experiencing a set from any of the members of Mobb Deep and it absolutely didn’t disappoint. It was good to see Mike from the Chip Shop role through on stage. He deserves all the love in the world from Hip Hop Icons providing such a fantastic platform for emerging and established artists in the heart of Brixton. That also indicated that there could be a cheeky appearance by Mobb at his spot later that evening. You’ll soon find out if that was the case. By this point I was still front row dabbing and spudding family on the camera crew and swinging my head trying to break my neck. Classical symphonies of NYC infiltrated the Electric and nearly every bar was recited by the thousands in attendance. I love Dead Prez, but due to the absences of some of my favourite tracks on their set, Havoc, Big Noyd and DJ Les were my highlight of the evening musically. ‘Quiet Storm’, ‘Hell on Earth’, ‘Survival of the Fittest’ and ‘Shook Ones, Pt 2’ almost back to back solidified an explosive rampage of bodies bumping into each other.
The finale, the piece de la resistance, the curtain closer, the other synonyms that associates with those words stepped on stage. It should have been a Dwayne Johnson moment on the mic like , “Finally Dead Prez has come back to London!”. I’ve been told it hasn’t been that long but last time I saw them was Kentish Town 02 Forum 2011ish where I bagged an amazing T‑shirt that my mum accidentally gave to charity. (First world problems) M1 and Sticman displayed their powerful presence with intervals of monologues throughout their set. One in particular I remember was how powerful our voices really are and when we speak, we should speak with power. The duo have always been a key moral force to carry my words with purpose. This is a reminder that no matter how much of someone’s discography you may know by heart, no matter how many interviews you may have encountered from artists you follow, there is always something new you can take away from them or that gives you the same feeling from when you heard them the first time.
They wore traditional Dashikis as they have in so many occasions on the performance supporting African fashion around the world, and today standing in solidarity with the people of Palestine. The B‑Boy remix to ‘Bigger than Hip Hop’ was still dope enough to cause mayhem with swarming bodies bouncing into a perspiring mosh pit. Also to add to the representation of all elements of the Hip- Hop, they invited dance collective ‘Rain Crew’ to the stage to represent the B‑boys and B‑girls of the culture, a picture-perfect Hip-Hop setting. My favourite track on that night was ‘Police State’, the chorus just tackled me bringing the dark side of some of our realities at the forefront and how emotionally oppressive circumstances can be from the aggressors that be. They closed the night with the absence of anthems like, ‘They Schools’, ‘Ball or Fall’, ‘Mind Sex’, ‘Happiness’, ‘Psychology’, ‘Tallahassee days’, ‘The Hood’ and a lot more that have moulded my Hip Hop spirit. That’s my only disappointment with the complete understanding of time the constraints that come when 3 legends take the stage in one evening.
The night concluded in the legendary Chip Shop BXTN. I rolled deep with the magazine, EOW and some other beautiful human beings to a place that pulsates Hip Hop vibrations. We stepped in, toasted to life, the fight for freedom and an exceptional job well done. After I schooled everyone on the dance floor with my 5 moves of death, the beautiful Rishma still wouldn’t crown me as the best dancer in the group. That’s cool, Haters are everywhere these days. Even if they’re amazing people. One by one, euphoria carried different people away into the night but I stayed. I knew what was coming after Havoc and Big Noyd stepped into the space. They went back to back in their section with various legendary tracks spinning in the background until eventually, Havoc took the Mic. We were blessed with another legendary intimate performance that only the Chip Shop could provide. As a responsible individual, at like 1am with work the next day, I called it a night. I shared some Caribbean food with the very talented I Am Hip Hop photographer Nadia Otshudi on the way home and cracked jokes with Mas Law on the night train.
Freedom Sounds exemplified the power Hip-Hop has to unify, educate, empower and entertain.
Together that night we were the voice for the voiceless, the voice of resistance against corporations that profit from the occupation, against the media that does not report the truth, we were the voice for Palestine. Hip Hop was alive, fighting for freedom and standing tall for the people of Palestine.
Photography by Nadia Otshudi
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