So, I attended the Wireless Festival 10 year bash on Sunday 28th June. In all honesty, I never intended to go, but two tickets found there way into the palm of my hand, and boi, I’m glad they did. Gotta big up Sal for the hook up.
As an active Hip-Hop head, the main stage and big name headliner, Drake, did not appeal to me at all. In fact, I’m not a Drake hater, and can appreciate that he has worked hard to get to where he is right now, but I do loathe the current mainstream Hip-pop sound that litters the airwaves; it’s a mixture of weak, uninspiring chanted, hooky lyrics, that contain an ever familiar drum pattern, coupled with a booming bass.
This nouveau sound may be enticing to some, in particular the younger listener, but I’m from a different generation, moreover, a different Hip-Hop music generation. I was from an era that inspired me to ‘Fight the power’ and also made me socially aware as to why brothers were screaming out ‘F**k the Police’ on the Westcoast of America.
It was the golden era of sample based tracks, where a producer was forced to ‘dig in the crates’ to stay fresh, and unearth that def sound or loop, but more importantly, stay ahead of the competition. This inevitably rendered the competition to up the ante, which resulted in hits after hits from many.
Ok, as mentioned, I didn’t fork out money for the main acts, I gave up my hard earned dosh to see some of the biggest Hip-Hop acts from the 80’s, 90’s and Noughties (00’s) and so I walked with purpose over to the Pepsi Max stage with my London based Portuguese companion, G.
The opening act was a young 18 year old brother from NYC by the name of Bishop Nehru. Now, I can’t front, I’ve heard of this cat, but cos I’m an old school fool, I’ve never heard his ish so was somewhat dubious and apprehensive about his beats and lyrics.
While waiting for Bishop’s DJ to set up his equipment, the heavens opened up and a downpour of rain descended. Oh no, I said to myself and took this as a bad sign. I had little hope for the act to soon come on!
A few minutes later, Bishop popped up on stage sporting a polo shirt with ‘England’ blazed across the front, wearing skinny jeans, a hair comb tucked under his red cap, and had a sicc pair of late 80’s Nike Air Jordan’s on.
Despite the incessant rain, the crowd was in a jovial and appreciative mood. I too had perked up, and a smile ran across my face as Bishop dropped a series of fresh beats, some boom bap and dope lyrics too. I also heard him say he produces his own stuff.
I was very impressed with what I heard and witnessed, that I’ve made a promise to myself to check out some of Bishop Nehru’s material. Well done young man. A victory for true Hip-Hop music.
Once Maseo overcame the turntable issues, and as the sun slowly crept out of the grey sky’s, and people put their £4 poncho’s away, Pos and Trugoy hit the stage and began working the crowd De La style. There was a lot of interaction with the crowd: be it hand waving gestures, pumping fists, to lots of encouragement to sing-a-long to their hits.
The Hip-Hop heads went nuts when ‘Stakes is high’ kicked in, and it’s rumbling b-line vibrated out the speakers. I even heard people shout out, R.I.P J. Dilla and rightly so. Nuff props to the legendary producer who worked on many De La tracks.
Three really is the magic number and they wet my appetite, and set not just me, but all of us up nicely for two of Wu-Tang’s finest to enter the stage next. By now the crowd was swelling up, and I clocked a lot more Wu affiliated merchandise on display, in particular caps and t-shirts.
There was a triumphant roar as the Wu DJ – DJ MK dropped ‘Criminology’ and an even louder roar as Raekwon and Ghostface Killah stepped out to meet their screaming fans. This Shaolin duo were hyped, and we responded by singing along to all the hits they fired from Rae’s debut ‘Only built 4 Cuban Linx’ album.
Ghost and Rae weren’t as interactive with the crowd like De La, but it was a solid and memorable performance nonetheless, and it left a void that needed to be filled by the next act. Two brothers from BK, Brooklyn.
While waiting for these next Emcee’s, one girl in a group of young teenagers turned round to me and said ‘who are Black Star?’ I duly responded. ‘They consist of Mos Def and Talib Kweli’. She responded back by sayin, ‘Oh yeah, Mos Def is now Yesiin Bey’. I said ‘yes, that’s correct’. The youth know a little something then. There is some hope for real Hip-Hop I thought to myself.
Black Star’s DJ’s (yes two of them) took an eternity to get started. Whether it was the sound engineer not fulfilling his duties correctly, or if the DJ equipment was at fault, we will never know.
The crowd was still heavily populated, but the Wu heads were now replaced by a younger and mature looking fan. Hmmm, interesting!
Black Star were formed in 1997 and both Mos and Talib rapped on a social and political level, thus gaining an underground following, but not the commercial success that they deserved in the late 90’s.
Black Star opened up with ‘Astronomy’ and then ‘Definition’ to great applause. Two killer tracks from their debut album ‘Mos Def & Talib Kweli are Black Star’.
Mos Def then dropped ‘Auditorium’ with its melodic sounding loop. A track from his debut album called ‘Black on both sides’. Kweli then hit us with the classic ‘The blast’ a single off his album with producer Hi-Tek ‘Train of thought’. This duo are known as ‘Relfection Eternal’.
Much to the crowds dissatisfaction, Black Star’s performance was literally cut short due to the hold up at the start. The music was turned off either by a time-keeping person of significant importance, or the sound engineer. All in all it was a bizarre incident.
Mos Def reacted with controlled contempt, then moved to the front of the stage, and said thank you to the crowd for what seemed like an eternity. He then jumped off the stage and ran up and down the gap that separated the stage from audience. The inevitable forward surge of the masses ensued in order to catch a high-five from the mighty Mos Def.
Before the great Pubic Enemy graced us with their performance, I was fortunate to meet Posdnous hanging outside the VIP area. He remembered me from a previous hook up via Mista Spyce, a UK rapper from a London crew in the 90’s called ‘The Brotherhood’. Pos was happy to sign the cover of my ‘3 feet high and rising’ album – happy days!
Some 30 minutes later, while chomping on a very tasty chesseburger, Eric Ridenhour, the brother of the infamous Chuck D, happened to walk in front of me. I quickly called him out with a mouthful of meat in mouth. He must of heard some kind of babble uttered from me, because he turned round and greeted myself and the three others I was with. He kindly took photo’s with all of us, we wished him well, and off he went to get ready for the show. Surreal.
Once I demolished that tasty chesseburger, G and I headed back to the Pepsi Max stage, passing the grime crew who were exiting that area. We took up our position, near the front in the centre, and watched as the massive PE family set the stage up, for the drummer, turntables for DJ Lord and sort the amps for a lead guitarist and bass player too.
While Hip-Hop’s, Rock N Roll hall of famers were setting up, I took note as the crowd grew larger in numbers, and observed an abundance of forty and fifty year old men and women in attendance now.
10 minutes or so later a blaring siren boomed out the speakers. DJ Lord had his face covered up so only his eyes could be seen, and we were instructed to raise our right fists by the PE hype men. Next, two PE S1W (Security of the First World) guards appeared on stage and commenced their military infused dance moves. Minutes later Chuck D graced us with his presence dressed in his trademark baseball cap with a P on it. Chuck was later joined by the clock wearing, gold teethed legendary Flavor Flav – the original Public Enemy jokester.
In Chuck and Flavor, you have two artist’s in their fifties, that’s right, they are middle aged men! Yet with the amount of jumping and running these guys do, they put cats half their age to shame – word!
This Sunday was no different. They were feet stomping, jumping over speakers, throwing microphones in the air, and doing press ups on stage (apparently Chuck did these as punishment for dropping the mic)
Putting their youthful antics on stage to one side, we all came to hear one of the most gifted Emcee’s in Hip-Hop, Mr Chuck D, deliver those hard hitting rhymes, and to remind ourselves of those Bomb Squad produced tracks.
PE fired timeless shots at us. From ‘Fight the power’ to ‘Don’t believe the hype’ and more bangers from their second classic album ‘It takes a nation of Millions to hold us back’. They also played tracks off their forthcoming album. I’m so pleased they are still making relevant music.
As Chuck and the rest of the PE family said adios, Flavor stayed put and his parting words to us was ‘f**k racism’ He then urged the whole crowd to throw up the peace sign. A fitting end to a memorable day of real Hip-Hop, and reminding us about one of the core messages in Hip-Hop culture: peace, love and unity.
Hats off to the Wireless organisers for attracting such a dope old school lineup. Even more so, I’m thrilled that such Hip-Hop artist’s are still touring the world, and secondly that they are exposing themselves to a new and younger audience, each and every time. Amazing.
So, what started off as rainy, miserable day with concerns over the first act, magically transformed itself into a sunny, nostalgic trip, down memory lane. Real Hip-Hop is in a good place. Peace