Skepta review – grime royalty broadcasts London to the world

Estimated read time 3 min read

Skepta has been basking in legend status as of late, enough to step with one Air Max into the pinnacles of other creative disciplines, from taking over Ibiza’s DC10 with his tech-house project Más Tiempo, to auctioning his paintings at Sotheby’s. He clearly feels he can take the liberty: “I’m talking about taking a year out, still I can’t see no competition” he says on recent hit Gas Me Up (Diligent). On a run of some of his best singles in years, Skepta holds the inaugural Big Smoke festival, his own curated one-dayer bridging longtime affiliates with more recent interests in tech house and amapiano. He treats the festival to a gig like no other, taking fans through some of the older and more personal cuts that a normal festival date couldn’t accommodate.

An air-raid siren announces his presence, and he begins with Same Shit Different Day from his 2012 mixtape Blacklisted. No one transmits their voice as forcefully while maintaining such a calm demeanour as the Tottenham-born artist, who raps with a mic stand as though he’s singing a ballad. Rolling out ferocious lesser-known cuts including Nokia Charger Wire and Text Me Back, they don’t inspire uproar, but those who have ridden with him for years understood their significance.

His new tracks find innovative ways to frame his status as grime royalty. Miss Independent takes the Rhythm & Gash sample he once tore to shreds on Radio 1Xtra with his brother, and sits it cheek-to-cheek with a lilting piano that stirs up old memories. The song’s hook-man R2R Moe joins him on stage, his subdued vocals entombed in Auto-tune, before Skepta lets him rap one of his own while he changes outfit, to middling results. Moe pleads for people to put flashlights on, but the crowd has barely had enough time to know him. They are more receptive to Nafe Smallz, who brings out Skepta’s longtime collaborator Chip.

As well as silky Afrobeats tracks “for the ladies”, there are tracks that awaken the pits. The Memphis-influenced It Ain’t Safe is rapped back to him with mirror force and, when his brother Jme comes out for That’s Not Me, the crowd erupts like they’ve just seen a wonder goal at the Spurs stadium. Skepta’s voice strains his voice with excitement. From the side, his jutted-out stage platform sits under a massive transmission tower. It’s a fitting image: here he is, two decades in, still providing for those back home while broadcasting London to the world.


You May Also Like

More From Author