24 Kitchen Street is bustling and busy from early on tonight, giving the impression that this is going to be a memorable event even before any of the acts have started. On the wheels of steel and providing the foundational mix of soul, hip hop and funk are Madnice Selectors. With the urban tapestry of a musical history pouring out of the speakers, it feels like this could be the birth of something special.
And, in some ways, it certainly is. As the first act, Liverpool’s own NELSON, steps up onto the stage the crowd get a lesson in the definition of what true hip hop is. It’s a powerful message, rapped with eloquence and imagination, layered over a progressive but primal pulse of a beat. Nelson and his DJ look as comfortable as two old-schoolers going at it again for the hundredth time. The beats take a nod from Cut Chemist and Marley Marl – contemporary yet still reminiscent of older styles. Nelson’s raps are in turn philosophical and sincerely personal. His delivery could be compared to De La Soul’s Pos or Jurassic 5’s Chali 2na, with his quick syncopated rhythms hitting hard and fast over the beat.
As a full band, touring support act BABEHEAVEN offer something different from the hip hop proceedings. There’s a definite taste of neo-soul in the mix alongside their indie influences, which makes for an interesting dynamic. The vocalist, though shy, delivers wonderfully minimalist melodies not unlike Sarah Williams White. The pace slows down dramatically but the band are still able to keep the crowd engaged, and Babeheaven have definitely turned some casual listeners into fully-fledged fans.
Then, finally, LOYLE CARNER steps onto the stage, his presence humble yet powerful as he commands the space that he occupies. With him is his DJ and fellow MC, REBEL KLEFF. The pair are treated to a raucous welcome as they start to deliver some crowd favourites in Mufasa, Tierney Terrace and BFG. Carner is just as enamoured by the spectacle as the crowd is as he keeps repeating “I’m home”, as he smiles from ear to ear in his Liverpool FC shirt.
As the pair venture through deeper material, some spoken word pieces materialise and add a heavy dosage of depth to the proceedings. There is a monumental atmosphere in here. The crowd are fanatic. The intricate rhymes are delivered with such sincerity that the emotion of each syllable is painted on Carner’s face. Such raw honesty is responded to with swathes of support. He even has a room full of Scousers chanting “Ooh aah Cantona” as he pays homage to his dearly departed, and clearly missed, stepdad. It’s a heart-warming scene.
Summing up this show is a horrendously difficult task. All that can truly be said is that it’s an absolute triumph: Carner has brought real hip hop to Liverpool, and he’s welcome back any time.