You say ‘rap’ to a lot of people and they still think of some blinged up moron banging on about how much pussy he’s had for breakfast, and I ain’t talking about no Whiskas munching ball of fur here neither. Either that or they’ll single out wannabe gangsters threatening to pop a cap in the ass of anyone who disses ‘em...other rappers, cops, their grandmother etc. Yawn. Happily of course there’s an equally rich seam of artists out there who use the genre in far more positive and creative ways and tonight was jam packed with them.
First up, Sound of Rum. What does rum sound like you may ask? I’d plump for that Captain dude off The Simpsons...aahhhhhhhh m’hearties...something like that. This is a different ‘sound of rum’ altogether though. This particular rum’s a female fronted rap attack in the form of vocalist Kate Tempest who come across like a fly Janis Joplin backed by a jazz combo. Yes, that good (depending on your view of both Ms Joplin and jazz combos in general of course). There aren’t too many female rappers out there (the last ones I saw live were the awesome Yo Majesty) but our Kate clearly has a real flair for this schnizzle (yep, I think I’m Snoop now, jeez) and, behind the shouty bravado that’s a mainstay of rap in general there lies the soul of a poet (she’s a regular at ‘poetry slams’ and you can see oodles of her stuff online at that there You Tube thingamijiggle fo’ real muthahumpers). I arrived just as she was in the middle of delivering her opening vocal only track. Not sure what it was called, (possibly ‘Life of a Scribe’), but it was impressive stuff. The rest of the equally ace set saw Kate backed by a jazzy twosome (drums and guitar), apart from when she split the audience down the middle of the room and got one half to shout ‘Sound of’ and the other half ‘Rum’ while she rapped her heart out (I was on the ‘Sound of’ side...we rocked). What a pity the masses are force fed claprap when they could be listening to this eh? A rum do all round.
Next up, B Dolan, who apparently shaved off his trademark beard a few days back at the London show. Shame. I like beards, all facial hair in fact. Male or female. Bring it on. Speaking of bringing shit on, old Bernard certainly does just that. Reminding me a little of Dalek (the rap act, not the plunger faced Dr Who bothering monsters) and MF Doom on record, he’s a disciple of the dark side of rap, employing heavy, nervous beats as a backing to his equally dark, troubled lyrics. Live he’s more like the pissed off teddy bear of rap however, bless him. Dressed in a blue jump suit (I had to bite my lip to stop myself from singing “he’s a baby, he’s baby” from Shooting Stars) and backed by a little box of tricks he came on wearing a George Bush mask, freaking out a fair portion of the audience (well it would wouldn’t it?). Capable of rapping at the speed of light he gave us a dozen or so tracks, the pick of the bunch being ‘Economy of Words’ (a bitter attack on the economic global meltdown) and ‘Earthmovers’ (an equally bitter attack on man’s unstoppable obsession with building shit). “It’s rainy and cold over here and you’re all pissed off and sarcastic...I fucking love this country...I ain’t leavin’ ever!” he quipped. Like Bill Hicks before him B Dolan obviously finds the "have a nice day" culture in his native US a little trying, so I can see why he likes being here. If there's one thing we do we lead the world in it's sarcasm. Don't say that too loud though or fucking Kraft will buy what's left of the country and move our sarcasm production over to Poland or somewhere. Anyway, back to Bernard, “I’m gonna suck up all your negativity then Dan and Scoobius will come out and fire rainbows through their dicks and fill you up with positivity”. Happily he left my negativity intact, in fact he probably topped it up a bit thanks to his hilarious poem about Justin Timberlake and his subsequent put downs of a heckler who tried to stand up for the trousersnake:
Heckler: “He’s not here to defend himself, don’t slag him off”
B Dolan: “You want to what? You want to suck him off...hey it’s your party pal”.
Finally Dan Stephens and David Mead, better known as Dan le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip, a partnership that’s now produced a fine brace of witty albums that tackle everything from religion and drug abuse to teenage apathy and suicide. I love these guys. Scroobius is more like a preacher than a rapper, not a preacher in the Daily Mail way either, more of a cool dude vicar who rides a chopper, smokes weed and plays hardcore punk records in his vestry. The venue’s packed out by the time they come onstage (it’s a sell out tonight, like most of the dates on this tour) and there’s already a sweaty fug in the air (or maybe that’s just me).
Of course we got all the classics from their debut album (‘Angles’) kicking off with ‘The Beat That My Heart Skipped’ and ending with encore ‘A Letter From God To Man’, but tonight was also the first chance for us to hear a lot of the new stuff live too (from recently released album ‘The Logic of Chance’). I’ve read a few negative reviews of their follow up to Angles, ignore ‘em, it’s just as thought provoking, catchy and fun as its predecessor. Tonight ‘Get Better’ was as neat an encapsulation of the choices facing our nation’s teens as you’ll ever hear, positive without being schmaltzy, inspirational without being too preachy. And in ‘Great Britain’ (a list of some of the things that ain’t so great about our once great state, set against what sound like an 80’s arcade game) Scroobius proved that whilst he doesn’t have all the answers, at least he poses the right questions. Tonight wasn’t just about the music though. Dan and Scroob are a great double act, self mocking and tongues firmly in cheeks throughout the set. Scroob did lots of that putting the microphone over the crowd so that they could sing into it “A trick I learnt from a Coldplay DVD” he drawled. Yeah, right. He had a real obsession with getting the audience “nasty and sweaty “ too, asking the lighting engineers to dim the lights so we wouldn’t feel self conscious and could lose ourselves in le Sac's beats. Judging by the moistened state of some of those in the pit it worked too. Rap that gets you stroking your chin as well as shaking your ass... makes a refreshing change from having a cap popped in it don't it?