I don’t spend so much time in Brixton these days. Amongst other beautiful memories there, the times of selling spraypaint in the market, playing community dances at the Jam, and more recently fighting with bailiffs in squatted buildings soon to be turned into ‘luxury’ plasterboard boxes, are drifting away from me. Most people know at least some of the threads in the story…things are changing. So I wondered, as I headed up to Hootananny, wagwaan for Hip Hop in Brixton.
Little did I know as I walked through the door, that a tune I love, TY’s ‘Brixton Baby’ (soon to be released on his new album ‘A Work of Heart’) and being spun by DJ Snuff, would in many ways set the vibe for the night of music & lyricism come.
Hootananny, if you’ve never been there, is a bit more than just music a venue. It’s got the stage, big sound, lighting, bar etc. But this area also opens out into another space where people chill, play pool, and munch on food from the stalls outside in the front garden serving up jerk chicken, freshly baked pizza & more. It’s always been a local hang out spot, as well as a place for good music since long time ago when it was the Hobgoblin. Tonight, the crowd was in many ways kind of the same as back in the days. It reflected Brixton. Everyone up in the mix. Just that these days, some new parts of that mix can come across a bit pretentious to me at times.There were moments this seemed the case, but thankfully not overwhelmingly so.
Anyway, with the vibes flowing through the speakers, with MC Honey Brown toasting up the venue nicely alongside Snuff laying down a selection of soulful, bouncy vibes, that set things up perfectly for the first live performance: Mai Khalil.
Together with a pianist, Mai performed a short selection of soulful songs, including older ones such as I Wanna Be Your Lover and the more recent and deeply meaningful Little Arab Girl — from her new album Reflections (the video to this was actually filmed somewhere in Brixton). The pianist was amazing, and combined with Mai’s powerful, soulful london twang, had the attention of the 70 or so person crowd, who although quite still, showed they were feeling the vibes when it came time to make some noise at the end of each track. Whilst it was a beautiful opening to the live shows with Mai keeping the performance very minimal and reflective, it might of been good to also drop in at least one track with a slightly more uptempo vibe, or something closer to some of her studio produced rhythm tracks. However, the vibes may also have radiated Mai’s energy at the moment, as someone who is very soon due to give birth to new life. Love.
Between Mai and the next performance, Snuff and Honey Brown upped the tempo and moved the crowd with a selection of dancehall and lyrics, old and new.
The second live act and soulstress — Layfullstop — had travelled down from Manchester to bless Brixton with some vibes alongside the three piece band who would be rocking it for the night on drums, keys (Dominic Canning from TriForce/Project Karnac) and bass (Renell Shaw from Rudimental). Switching the style up, with energies high and stage presence lively, Layfullstop took the crowd on a journey through dynamic vocal techniques and fluid shifts in lyrical flow, bridging Soul, Jazz and Hip Hop lyricism in single tracks. As the performance progressed, the tempo, temperature and funkyness increased, and the crowd, over 100 people by now, bubbling to the vibes, engaged with Layfulls jokes. It was a shame, however, that the sound engineer, seemed unable to keep up with the dynamics, and at times vocals were completely lost in the mix.
In fact the sound was an issue throughout the evening, and affected everything from the impact of Mai’s powerful vocals and political commentary, to general lack of bass and balance in the sound frequencies between instruments and vocals. Hootananny sort it out please!!!
Despite that however, Layfullstops performance ended on a high, with a couple of tracks involving DJ Snuff and the band jamming together and Layfullstop flowing doubletime over the top. Snuff continued on the decks bringing the uptempo and contagious rhythms of Afrobeat and other similar tempo vibes — including Missy Elliots ‘ Work It’, carefully blended into the mix.
A bit after 1am, the band returned to the stage, and began to tune up and jam with the riddim Snuff had spinning. Before the crowd realised, Logic was up in the place, and on the mic, hyping up the crowd and getting everyone to come forward. The crowd packed in, around 200 people — and were greeted with the chorus from Mighty Moe & Logic: ‘Asalaam wa Alaykum Shalom. Wagwaan, know where your from’ — the second track off the Mighty Logic album, that features Jaja Soze (a brother who’s got longtime roots musically with Logic in Brixton). Logic and Moe flowed back to back over the music like one and it was clear, Hip Hop was definitely in the building!!!
Next the riddim switched up into the foot skanking vibes of ‘Go So’. If it hadn’t happened already this really got the whole crowd bouncing, and in the blink of an eye TY was up on stage with Logic and Moe. All 3 artists on stage skankin hard and loving it. Levels high.
Before the next track, TY took time to show love to Mighty Moe, and his involvement with Hip Hop culture, possibly pointing to the misplaced tensions that sometimes emerge between different musical genre ‘boxes’. For those that wondered why, its because Mighty Moe has been for many years a part of a collective called Heartless Crew, that produces and DJ’s music more oriented towards the Garage music scene.
Drawing the crowd together, it was then straight into the chants of ‘ok ok ok ok ok…’ the chorus off the not performed live before track: ‘Ok’ featuring TY. Crowd participation was encouraged, and Ty, Logic and Moe bounced off each other with ease, and it was clear they were right at home in the moment.
This was followed by a live version of Rodney P’s ‘Live Up’ that features Peoples Army and Might Moe. This track has a serious reggae bounce to it. Although Rodney and other artists off the track were not there, bro Ghette jumps on stage, with his bashment style lyricism up in the track and gets the crowd finally ALL jumping. If nothing else gets them, uptempo reggae vibes often have the power to move people. And if that wasn’t enough, Amy True joins everyone on stage, ready for the transition into the next track, the third off the Mighty Logic album: ‘Dont Worry’.
The chorus on this track had nuff people singing along with Amy. You might find this surprising considering the crowd was not solely Logic & Mighty Moe fans, or even a purely Hip Hop crowd. But it was kind of overly predictable, being a part cover of that classic Bob Marley, that has been embraced by nearly everyone. Personally I always want everyone to sing along to Marley’s ‘War’ track, but maybe I’m missing the point. Anyway, it worked well and helped gel the crowd together.
From that it was straight into what is possibly one of Logics biggest classics — ‘ Begging You’.
TY & Amy sing the intro together and the crowd is hype, jumping up on the chorus with Logic and Moe. Throughout the show, the live riddims were tight and funky, but now the band members were given their moment to express themselves further and bless the audience with solos: piano, then drums, then bass, and then before you know it, the live performance is done. But the audience is left with the lyrical flows of Honey Brown & Mighty Moe going back to back over riddims spun by DJ Snuff.
The Mighty Logic album is good. But catch them live, and it’s almost a whole different album, definitely worth experiencing.
Review written by the legendary DJ Steaz.