From winning both the Mercury Prize and the Scottish Album of the Year Awards in 2014 (for Dead and Tape Two respectively) through to earning the kind of gushing praise that’s normally reserved for visiting deities Edinburgh’s Young Fathers seemingly came from nowhere. They’ve actually been a going concern since hooking up at an under 16s hip hop night in 2008 though, fusing three distinctly different backgrounds (Liberia via Ghana, Maryland and Drylaw, apparently a suburb on the outskirts of Edinburgh...who says the internet ain’t educational eh?) to create something that’s undeniably different. And at this stage in musical evolution development that’s a pretty rare thing indeed.
First up though Kojey Radical, artist, poet, musician...he probably knocks up a mean lemon drizzle cake too. Joined this evening by Jude (who had one of those weird Talk Box devices that makes it sound like his guitar is talking, all without the aid of mind altering drugs too...cool) Kojey’s an accomplished wordsmith with the kind of natural easy going charm that soon had the audience doing the old call and response thing with unusual enthusiasm. Citing Shakespeare, Sigmund Freud and quite possibly Karl Marx (in one track he posits the thought that it’s actually love that’s the opium of the people as opposed to religion if only eh?) as influences and inspiration fine lines spilled out relentlessly with pick of the set being an emotional Preacher Preacher, railing against religion’s habit of taking money from its flock in exchange for spiritual salvation (something which seemed to have hit his own family and mother in particular) and the Hamlet inspired Ophelia. So, to see or not to see: that is the question. That’s a simple one to answer, this particular Radical's well worth catching.
With the room packed and gently steaming the trio of Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole and “G” Hastings suddenly appeared as drummer Steven Morrison began beating the bejesus out of his kit (something that, impressively, he continued doing for much of the set in fact). From the outset the music’s a mix of all sorts, reflecting both the diverse backgrounds of the band and quite possibly the unfettered access to music that we all pretty much take for granted these days. Reviewers have done their brains in trying to sum up what Young Fathers are. They’ve been called rap but not rap, leftfield hip hop and dark gospel...all true in their own way and yet still wide of the mark. Take the Queen Is Dead for instance. Huddled round a single mic, arms round each other, it’s like someone’s lit the blue touch paper on a bomb as the menacing beats and stream of consciousness lyrics explode into apache whoops, discordant synths and furious drumming.
Adam Ant meets Aphex Twin meets Public Enemy via Gil Scott Heron? Who the hell knows, but who cares when it sounds this great though. It’s a mix that reaches its peak on the band's breakthrough single Get Up, quite possibly the most twisted party anthem in history.
At times it's almost like three different bands playing all at once, a dizzying Molotov cocktail of words, music and sounds that really shouldn’t work but somehow just does.
If the mix of influences is impressive then the sheer energy of a Young Fathers show will blow your socks off...even if you ain’t wearing any. Having three frontmen gives each one the chance to step up and go three shades of bonkers, then catch their breath before plunging back into things. Alloysious and Kayus are particularly boisterous to put it mildly, whilst “G” has a bit of an Ian Curtis thousand yard stare thing going on. Fiddling about with various knobs he also produces the kind of other worldly sounds last heard on 60s sci fi, Dr Who meets Dr Dre with just a dash of TV On The Radio for good measure. Shame, introduced by “G” (one of the few times any of the band spoke) with a slightly menacing “Can ye dance?” in particular tested the sonic boundaries and if the dog population of Kings Heath suddenly started throwing shapes around 10pm on Wednesday night then you’ll know why.
The set ended with Massaquoi doing some kind of beautiful, weird contemporary dance that, aping the music, seemed to blend everything from body popping to ballet and then they were gone. No fake encore bullshit, no shout outs pushing the merch and no endless posing for selfies with the fans.
Whether all of this energy, creativity and dedication to the road (they played an impressive 140 gigs last year) will last or where they take things from here remains to be seen. For now though, well, quite frankly they’re the daddies.