Hip Hop Ain’t Dead…It’s In London
Review Of Lowkey Live At The Garage London, September 18th 2016
The Garage has been host to many great Hip Hop nights in London over the years, from Pharaoh Monche to KRS one. As the temperamental 2016 British summer has reached its zenith, Highbury & Islington’s landmark venue once again treated hip-hop fans to a master class in live music performance.
Several months ago social media’s independent music and social activism scene were buzzing with a rumour. Finally after an announcement of a tour, it had been confirmed. Lowkey had returned.
Lowkey had been an important figure in hip-hop culture and social activism. He is part of a small club of artists who take the responsibility of their platform seriously. Much like other popular independent artists such as Immortal Technique; Lowkey speaks about important social and political issues in his music. He provided a voice for a generation of conscientious humanists. He made it cool again to care. This burden must have not been easy to carry, especially when you are choosing to speak against the system which decides which artists get to “trend,” and which do not.
Needless to say, his influence and music was missed during his four year break from the lime light.
He returned with a new track titled ‘Ahmed.’ A song inspired from the viral, heart-breaking image of the displaced child that was found face down on the shores of Europe. UK’s most politically charged MC decided to once again use his platform to provide a voice for children who no longer had one.
Two months later, I stand in a packed out venue eagerly awaiting to experience his comeback tour. The energy is of the room is positive, the security are relaxed. Far from the usual tone of a typical hip-hop night. The audience is a mix of UK hip-hop veterans and a younger crowd, whose political awareness was evident through the many keffiyehs worn. A symbol synonymous with the fight to end Palestinian occupation and with Lowkey’s music.
Mic Righteous opened the show. Once labelled UK’s Eminem, his performance immediately set the tone. Tonight was to be a set of passionate, talented and conscious rap. Tonight is not about materialism and self-promotion. He instantly animated the crowd with skilful wordplay and sharp delivery.
Next up we had Lowkey’s protégé Crazy Haze. An artist who has grown immensely over the past 4 years into a knowledgeable and politically enlightening lyricist. His performance embodied a message and inspired hope with bars like; “all we got to lose now is our cuffs and our cage.”
The multi-talented DJ, vocalist and rapper Awate jumped on stage straight after. His experience touring as Lowkey’s DJ since the age of 18 was apparent through his utter comfort whilst on stage. He utilised well recognized funky beats such as Fresh Prince of Bel Air to tell his story; from his experiences growing up in a Camden housing estate to trouble with the police.
This was followed by a young female spoken word artist. She went by then name Oshanti – which she explained meant “angry” in her native Bengali. She chose this name because it represented the emotion that she feels when faced with the social issues that drove her to pick up the pen. She spoke on topics like feminism, religious persecution and institutional racism. The crowd’s cheering and applause demonstrated a communal identification with her struggle.
The atmosphere grew in excitement as the crowd anticipated who was next. Lowkey exploded onto the stage as if he never left. His familiar effortless blend of catchy hooks, quality content and skillful lyricism reminded of us of his mission to ignite a personal revolution in every person that hears his message.
He impeccably delivered his classic tracks such as ‘Terrorist’, ‘Long Live Palestine’, ‘My Soul’ and ‘Obamanation.’ He also treated fans of lyricism to his classic “Alphabet Assassination” Fire in the Booth performance.
It was interesting to see how Lowkeys music had inspired a new generation of young fans to carry the same political fire that was existed when his material was first released. Fans who could not have been older than 12 years old when his Fire in the Booth was released, had memorised every bar. An example of how quality content is timeless. A lesson Tupac has taught all artists over the years.
The show was kept fresh and exciting with special guests and switching up of the tone. The crowd exploded with excitement when his fellow consciences brother in rap Akala walked onto the stage to collaborate on “Behind my painted smile.” We were also treated to appearances by Black the ripper (which explained the phantom smell of weed), Mai Kalil and more.
The show was wrapped with a freestyle by Lowkey where he displayed his Arabic skills learnt during his time away from music. He consciously ended it with a message around the liberation of Palestine to remind us of our social duties. Lowkey and his line-up had not only given a great show, but they also given the crowd an inspirational energy. Welcome back brother, the hip-hop scene has sorely missed a conscious voice.