REVIEW | THE SOLD-OUT KINGDEM TOUR IN LONDON (@THEJAZZCAFE)

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It hasn’t always been like this. Black music, under­ground music, Sound Sys­tem cul­ture, bass driv­en sounds have been birthed by our com­munit­ies for gen­er­a­tions, but haven’t always gained sup­port with­in our com­munit­ies or out­side them, at least not in the way it is now, for a lot of reas­ons. The exuber­ance and excess of major labels dom­in­ated the decision mak­ing of who was suc­cess­ful through­out the 80s and 90s, and when that industry and life­style crashed in the early 2000s, a void was cre­ated along­side the infant­ile eco­sys­tem of down­load­ing and stream­ing that made it one of the most dif­fi­cult times to dis­trib­ute and pro­mote music, espe­cially inde­pend­ently. This era was the time when Grime was formed, which des­pite being attacked by the powers that be has sur­vived and thrived thanks to the ambi­tion and ded­ic­a­tion of the people who cre­ated it, some of who have now rightly reaped immense suc­cess today, as that online eco­sys­tem is now mature enough to work in the favour of inde­pend­ent artists. That same peri­od also coin­cided with the “boom” of UK Hip Hop – clas­sic, boom bap, rugged, lyr­ic­al UK Hip Hop. More rap­pers and beat­makers seemed to exist then than before and now, though it rarely pro­duced suc­cess­ful careers; by the time we reached the place we are now, the wave of interest had mostly moved on to the young­er sib­lings of Grime and Drill.

O7nFP0AUThere are artists though, who not only laid the found­a­tion for our cur­rent moment, but shaped the art form and cul­ture, main­tained it though those dif­fi­cult years and have come out the oth­er side with their lives, san­ity, respect and repu­ta­tions not only intact, but enhanced. Rod­ney P, Blak Twang and Ty are 3 of those artists – rep­res­ent­ing 3 dif­fer­ent gen­er­a­tions each inspired by and build­ing on the one before. To see them come togeth­er as The King­Dem, with a nation­al tour, an EP on the way (pro­duced by Nutty P and set to be released on Tru Thoughts) and shellin’ rid­dims on plat­forms like Charlie Sloth’s new Fire in the Booth is a sig­ni­fic­ant moment for lyr­ic­al Hip Hop music, our cul­ture, those who make it and those who have always sup­por­ted it. That fact has not been lost on our com­munity, around the coun­try but espe­cially in Lon­don. The last date of The King­Dem tour at Jazz Café sold out com­pletely, with people who’d assumed they’d be able to pay on the day miss­ing out.

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For those who didn’t miss out (or were blessed to have a press pass!) it was a spe­cial night. I’ve been to Jazz Café a lot over the years, and seen crowds like this for the likes of Jedi Mind Tricks and Onyx, or may­be some­thing close to that for a huge com­pil­a­tion line up of Lon­don based acts, but this was dif­fer­ent. This was for one crew – yes, a super­group made of 3 legends – still, it was a power­ful state­ment. What was also telling was the range of the audi­ence; a beau­ti­ful mix of Hip Hop heads in their 20s, 30s 40s and above, and too many influ­en­tial names to men­tion. Import­antly, a large pro­por­tion of the crowd were sis­ters. One cri­ti­cism UK Hip Hop has faced over the years is the mar­gin­al­isa­tion of and inab­il­ity to attract women to events like this. The King­Dem have bucked that trend, not only in the demo­graph­ic of sup­port but in the homage paid to the Cook­ie Crew, already being referred to as The Queen­Dem, in the pro­mo­tion­al events and at this show – as the fun­da­ment­al inspir­a­tion for Rod­ney P to start rap­ping back in the 80s.

eJ56VbxIIt also mani­fes­ted in the wildly dope Isat­ta Sher­iff being brought onstage by Ty, to add to the sup­port from Rot­ton family’s K9, Not­ting­ham vet­er­an and com­munity build­er Jah Dig­ga, pion­eer­ing selecta and taste­m­aker DJ 279 who all killed their sets, all held togeth­er by Rapscal­lion as mas­ter of cere­mony. The homage paid, the sup­port of old friends, the pro­mo­tion of young­ers, the bring in of heads from oth­er cit­ies and the sup­port and reac­tions from the crowd was evid­ence of what The King­Dem said all night – this was about more than 3 men – this was about Hip Hop, and the branch of its cul­ture born in the cit­ies of these isles.Fj_Z6iaI At the same time though, it was all about these 3 legends, as it should be. We were treated to a mix of clas­sics and fresh­ness, through their indi­vidu­al sets and their col­lect­ive per­form­ance. Another legend, DJ Teddy Ted, held down the decks for the whole night, mak­ing the crowd go crazy as Ty dropped tracks like ‘Heart is Break­ing’, ‘Ha Ha’, ‘As the Smoke Clears’ and ‘Some­where Some­how Some­way’. Tony Rot­ton went in with his clas­sics ‘Dettwork South­East’, ‘Help Dem Lord’, ‘G.C.S.E.’ and end­ing on what prob­ably got the biggest reac­tion of the night ‘So Rot­ton’. With the tone set, Rod­ney P took the stage, his set play­ing like a his­tory of Black Lon­don music, mov­ing from his ‘Live Up’ col­lab­or­a­tion with People’s Army and Mighty Moe, through clas­sic Lon­don Pos­se tracks ‘Money Mad’ and ‘How’s Life in Lon­don’ to solos like ‘Rid­dim Kil­la’ and ‘The Nice Up’, with clas­sic Jungle, Rag­ga and Hip Hop vibes mixed through­out. You could feel the genu­ine appre­ci­ation and enjoy­ment from the crowd all the way through, and look­ing around there was big, big smiles on faces all round. The night reached its cli­max when all 3 King­Dem shared the stage, per­form­ing new tracks ‘The Con­ver­sa­tion’ and ‘King­step’ and the bars per­formed on Fire in the Booth, show­ing that 30+ years of grind, growth, per­sever­ance and cre­at­ing has sharpened the skills, not dulled them.

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These broth­ers, legends, kings showed bey­ond all doubt that lyr­ic­al, sub­stance driv­en, home grown Hip Hop was not only alive, but thriv­ing in this era of merged gen­res, new sounds, revital­isa­tion, inde­pend­ent achievements…and mumble rap! The King­Dem is a move­ment, with a lot more to come, that was not star­ted but has def­in­itely been con­tin­ued through this show, this tour, this crew, the music they’re about to release and the bridges that will be built through their con­tin­ued suc­cess. A corner has been turned and there’s no turn­ing back; again, I feel blessed to be wit­ness­ing it and be a part of it.

Fol­low the move­ment at www.kingdem.co.uk

Pho­tos by Ern­est Simons (@ernestsimons)

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Apex Zero

Apex Zero

An emcee, beat­maker, film­maker and writer from Lon­don with Gren­adian roots, Apex Zero has spent his life learn­ing and liv­ing Hip Hop cul­ture, using it to inspire and affect change. Based in Beijing for a few years and reg­u­larly tour­ing the globe, Apex is well trav­elled, and uses the les­sons this provides to inform his art and out­look. He is a mem­ber of the Glob­al­Fac­tion digit­al pro­duc­tion house and the inter­na­tion­al Hip Hop col­lect­ive End of the Weak.

About Apex Zero

Apex Zero
An emcee, beatmaker, filmmaker and writer from London with Grenadian roots, Apex Zero has spent his life learning and living Hip Hop culture, using it to inspire and affect change. Based in Beijing for a few years and regularly touring the globe, Apex is well travelled, and uses the lessons this provides to inform his art and outlook. He is a member of the GlobalFaction digital production house and the international Hip Hop collective End of the Weak.