- Mad Brains
Liverpool’s golden age of live hip hop shows no signs of slowing down. It’s as if these titans of the genre have been talking, and everyone agrees that Liverpool is a guaranteed knowledgeable, lively crowd. A sold-out Kazimier is crackling with excitement – determined to engage in what could be the last great hip hop show in this hallowed venue. An underrated factor in our rap renaissance has been the superb support from local MCs. Tonight it’s the turn of MAD BRAINS, possibly the only man alive to have split his childhood between Florida and Widnes. That strange amalgamation informs his performance, marrying a West Coast Pharcyde flow to the kind of murky, minor-chord production usually found seeping from the high-rises of bleak British towns. Pouring his soul into both the microphone and a can of Red Stripe while stalking the stage, Mad Brains’ tales of late nights and Stinky Reefa deftly plot the landscape of every Briton who’s ever turned to hip hop to escape.
There are plenty of those in attendance, too, eager to receive a lesson from The Teacher. Despite the glittering list of names to have visited our shores these last couple of years, this is our first chance to see someone who is included in the conversation about the greatest to have ever stepped to a microphone. And, tonight, KRS is putting on a clinic. Breaking off from barnstorming opener Step Into A World to bless us with the first pin-sharp freestyle of many, he blows us backwards with a blizzard of hits: MCs Act Like They Don’t Know, I Can’t Wake Up, Black Cop and, of course, Sound Of Da Police. A lot of big bombs are dropping early, but this set is carefully crafted for ultimate impact; the youthful militant defiance of 9mm Goes Bang is directly followed by the cautionary tale of consequences that is Nina (You Gotta Go). No explanation is necessary between the songs – KRS made sure the message was clearly apparent in the lyrics, because the message is everything. There are times when the music is sacrificed, dropping the volume in the act of not wasting a single syllable. Whilst this is slightly jarring at first, considering he’s spent half an hour telling the sound man to “Blast that shit!”, KRS has an intuitive magnetism, allowing us to easily follow him from hyped to hypnotised, and back again.
This man has learned from every hard lesson life has thrown at him; there is no entourage, save for a DJ/hype man (his son) and a manager (his wife). So many musicians tour in their later years in a desperate attempt to hang on to a life to which they became a little too accustomed, but it’s clear that KRS is still here for us as much as himself. He’s as excited to see us as we are him. Labelling a show “the most intimate venue of the tour” could be taken as a slight from some lips, but everyone feels the unity between stage and crowd. At this point, KRS delivers his most surprising revelation so far: after spotting an Everton away shirt in the crowd he intones that it “takes him back to 1989”. A beaming smile then erupts as he sees the name of DJ and fallen comrade Scott La Rock on the back. KRS manages to be simultaneously of the people and above the people; his words carry the weight of presidential slogans, but they are words to set us free: “Some people see disaster and some people see opportunity in disaster”. No one present will ever regret taking the opportunity to see the Blast Master.