The opening notes of Kanye West’s ‘All Day’ are the first sounds to emanate from the speakers at Camden’s KoKo. The low registering auto-tuned hum, blasts across the room as nine men, dressed in black, present themselves on stage. This doesn’t feel like a rehash of the iconic BRIT Awards show that first saw these men stood together, but like the next level in the demonstration. More fine-tuned, but still rebellious.
Steve Jobs became known for the theatrical way in which he would announce a new product, famously labouring well into the night working on stage-lighting and scripts the night before he unveiled the Macintosh to a packed 2,600 seater auditorium, and it’s only right that a keen follower of Jobs like Kanye West would do the same presenting his latest single in an even more intimate setting. But after letting off those first five seconds, we’re thrown back into silence as five of the men step back off stage, and the cold opening notes of ‘That’s Not Me’ punch through the speakers as Skepta, JME, Novelist and Meridian Dan rip into the tune that marked the beginning of grime’s new romance with the States.
From the outset, the night feels historic. If you’d told us two weeks ago that we’d be seeing Kanye West, Skepta, Big Sean, JME, Vic Mensa, Novelist, CyHi The Prynce, Allan Kingdom and Meridian Dan walking to the stage as equals, we wouldn’t have believed you. This time around it’s not about just mobbing behind West at an award show as an aesthetic statement, but a combining of the two worlds and a demonstration that, as Skepta put it in an interview with The Fader last year: “Britain is just another place that raps.” The BRIT’s feels like it was all just a warm up for tonight’s performance.