A dynamic back to back set, with a crowd sweaty and sonically satisfied. Suspect OTB , Milkavelli and Eliza (Doolittle) flavoured the show: 4.8/5
In it’s short lifetime, East London’s XOYO has established itself as a host to some of the biggest, urban musical icons of this generation. To celebrate their brief but brilliant 6 years, they have got 6 days of music lined up this week.
Tuesday night was warm. Hundreds of sports-wearing young adults and I headed to the sun-blocked-side-street just off Old Street, to catch two people recite passively aggressive poems over dark, texturised hip hop beats. Those two, were Wiki from NYC’s Upper West Side, and Jesse James Solomon from Catford in South London.
The show was a party, vibes were definitely there. As the subterranean venue slowly filled, DJ J Fresh set the vibes and the app Shazam shone from peoples phone’s, their faces contorting as they repeatedly tried to “get that tune”.
Then boom, 9:30PM rolls around, New York City’s self-proclaimed Mayor, Wiki (off the group Ratking) steps up on stage. The lead single Mayor from his latest LP No Mountains In Manhattan has an equally recognisable and uplifting sample in the intro – excited faces turned to the illuminated stage as Wiki puffed his chest and cheeks to spit. Almost everybody knew the hook (and most of the verses), an impressive start.
Then like butter, the DJ fused 3 Stories onto the PA and already Wik, unfazed by the applause continued with a flurry of nostalgic bars from 2015 album Lil Me. A fun hook layered over a jazzy hip hop instrumental, that embodies the feeling of a New York taxi ride. Then, just like picking up Jesse for that ride, the strangely dissonant trappy tune Whole Half, brought Jesse James Solomon from the side of the stage to shouts and gun fingers. Wiki praised Jesse, Jesse praises Wiki, the show proceeds to bang.
I was wrong to assume Wiki, although arguably more famous, was the headline act. The two have a strong chemistry that allows them to merge their similar sounds into one articulate show. Wiki plus Jesse is what’s key to this.
Because as much as Wiki’s words were known, the crowd had Jesse’s track Son of the Ends down to the letter – Suspect also supplying a gaseous verse and adlibs. Jesse’s diction comes through clear on the XOYO sound system; which was on point as usual. Half the audience cant take their eyes off Jesse, the other half have their eyes closed, deeping the recent classic that is Under The Sun feat. Kadiata. Not even 20 minutes has passed, so just when you thought the show was going to start slowing down, Wiki says “now we got some new shit for you, you aint gonna be able to sing along so just listen and go nuts”.
Suspect OTB was featured as one of HighSnobiety’s, 10 British rappers to watch out for this year. Now, High Snobiety are a bunch of well-paid hypebeasts, but they may have got it right on this guy. Jesse and Suspect teamed up on One Way – a very saucy, bowsy trap tune. “Wrong way down a one, road rage like you what mate?”…just listen to and it and try not to feel like a G.
The majority of new sounds they showcased that night had well structured deep basslines but light piano chords. Overall showcasing the fact their entire affiliated squad has been studying the contemporary hip hop soundscape. It’s noticeable they’ve been mastering their crafts but also undeniable Wiki has kept his comedic charm, one of his new tracks containing a hook that goes “See Si So Saw We Gon Cop That Puerto Rican Raw”.
Jesse reinstated himself as a favourite for the ladies – introducing a new track saying, “this ones for the galdem but obviously mandem you can vibe to this” – of which the crowd had a decent supply. Getting women to shows has always been a struggle for hip hop artists yet I think there is an essence of approachable youth and honest poetry to Wiki and Jesse which means ladies just line up for the shows.
If any of the ladies that night felt some kind of way they must have dripped when the casually cool Eliza stepped forward to do her part on Don’t Make Me. Under purple lights, Eliza bopped and swayed like her graceful vocal harmony – Jesse and Eliza coming like London’s young Bey and Jay. The two exchanging stares and sharing very little space, captivating like High School Sweethearts. By the end of the track, the entire crowd is singing Eliza’s hook “Dont, make me, wait, for love”… The track laid an atmosphere that matched that of a James Blake concert, the crowd almost stunned, reminded as to exactly why they bought the ticket.
Then the crowd proceeded to sing all the words to Ride Home, Lily feat. Milkavelii, Lionel Jesse + JFSE. Jesse James Solomon doesn’t shout, he performs every song without busting a sweat under his hoodie and it’s probably because his fans sing the majority of his tunes.
Just as everyone thought they knew no more words, Wiki came back round like a pendulum from the beginning of the show, Chinatown, Pretty Bull and God Bless Me had everybody moshing until it felt nobody could mosh anymore. After a demanded encore, Wiki freestyled over what felt like a Metal Fingers beat and the show ended suddenly but sufficiently.
I hadn’t expected much of a showcase from either of these two rappers but that was, hands down, the most well structured set performed by rappers raised either side of the Atlantic I had the pleasure of witnessing.