Video/Review: BLACK STAR X RAKIM X MURKAGE // Manchester 11MAY11


Manchester Academy 1, 11MAY11

Review: Agent J

Air Adam’s photos weren’t taken for this review, please take a look at his site and check his work here!

Check photos by Thomas Pham too…

TALIB KWELI and MOS DEF performed in Manchester this Wednesday gone, only their second show as the reformed BLACK STAR in ten years or so. AllAboutGoodMusic were in the crowd to film what they could, and got some pretty nice results as you can see down below. Check the suits, check the mics.

Despite being downgraded from the 3000 capacity Apollo to the circa-2300 Academy 1, it seems ticket sales weren’t as strong as they should have been. Whether this was down to a lack of promotion or the average hip-hopper’s empty pockets in times of recession (£35 a ticket…), the crowd was left with more than enough room to swing a large cat or two, despite ticket giveaways and long guest lists.

With a lot more ‘real’ hip hop gigs coming up this year (hello, Groovement calendar to the right and scroll down), some hip hop fans are being forced to make choices that they rather wouldn’t, mostly dependent on what they’ve heard or seen in the past. Public Enemy have hit Manchester twice over the past few years, the Wu are back around again (but with how many members?)… Ice Cube and Naughty By Nature should be a good one, taking place a day after the already sold-out Odd Future show, and it goes without saying that Snoop’s live re-enactment of Doggy Style sold out long ago.

Rumours abound as to why DE LA SOUL didn’t show on Wednesday (they had done in London the night before), with Pos’ Twitter muttering something about being on the way to Poland. I really hope it wasn’t a case of having to drop an act owing to poor ticket sales – either way, there was no announcement made so we were left oblivious.

MURKAGE performed admirably on the night, Rage Against the Machine and Nirvana samples being apt for their anti-bullshit ethos and frankly punk attitude to the stage. They’ve got to have been slightly worried about performing their definite-2011 sound to a room full of 80s and 90s hip hop fans, but had secured a solid crowd response towards the halfway point of their set. Props for the Ian Brown intro too.

Shouts to the NO FAKIN‘ crew who, despite having to put up with shit sound from the Academy in between acts, pulled out nothing but head nodders, reading the crowd like a book.

Photograph (c) Adam Braimah




TECHNICIAN THE DJ dropped a ten-tonne hip hop bomb to introduce RAKIM, sailing through a history of hip hop with an injured hand and whilst having to stand on a CD case to make him tall enough to reach the decks. With the crowd not quite knowing to expect from Rakim, Technician made everyone feel right at home. It was sort of like this…

Rakim was charming, funny and in total command of the Academy. Ignoring the promoter’s waves of ‘Time’s up!” towards the end, Rakim fed off the crowd and had heads and young ‘uns alike hanging off every word of his crystal clear delivery. Better job from the sound people, defo. Crowd interaction was tantamount to the success of this set, with stories of his boat ride (Rakim doesn’t fly) and the left and right side of the room shouting each other being the highlights.

In fact Rakim was so keen, he must not have looked at his watch. Far be it from Talib and Mos to complain about it (as I’m sure they never would – they’ve been very vocal about their respect for Rakim), but the mic fiend was still on stage by the time they were due on. This resulted in an hour set from Black Star, digging ten minutes into the 11pm curfew, with the crowd booing the lack of encore once the lights came up following a few too many seconds of darkness. Previous to that though, the handsomely dapper duo had sprung on stage shouting their name and flown straight into their set. They pulled out all the favourites (well, mostly: no Thieves In The Night!) to a well-up-for-it audience – again their flows were crystal, but the two DJs in the back spent half the gig looking worried about something or other. There was no shaking the feeling of watching two modern legends at work though, bouncing around the stage like rapping Tiggers and seeming to enjoy it all the way through.

As enthusiastic as it was, the show did feel a little rough around the edges but I can’t quite place why  – perhaps the difference in volume between the vocal and backing music at the beginning, the stand-back-and-listen-to-a-remix section (bringing back bad memories of Meth skipping through tracks from 8 Diagrams on a CD player for an ‘encore’ a couple of years back) or the worried looks on the DJs’ faces. I was left with a bit of a vibe that rather than Manchester and London being extra special for seeing the first Black Star shows, it was more of a trail run for the New York shows which will come later in the year. But hell, we were all willing guinea pigs. Mos and Kweli were warm and welcoming, and so was the crowd. A real shame about De La and the lack of acknowledgement from anyone of their absence, but overall a powerful night of true hip hop. Rawkus.


Read The Guardian’s Rakim interview


Photograph (c) Adam Braimah




Agent J aka Jamie Groovement: writer, host, DJ and teacher. @jamiegroovement

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