There is nothing quite as thrill-inducing as being in the queue for a surprise gig by one of music’s most progressive artists. It was this thrill that tempted around 1500 fans onto the freezing streets of London. Within ten minutes of the 7.30pm announcement, fans of Kanye West began queuing along Camden High Street. With temperatures steadily dropping, when the doors opened at midnight over an hour later than scheduled the audience were divided into two distinct groups, those cold and exhausted and just hoping that the gig was worth the freezing wait, and those hyped and aggressively chanting for the gig to begin.
The atmosphere in Koko immediately thawed when at 1am, West exploded onto the stage bringing with him an epic crew of guest rappers from both sides of the pond. Raekwon from the Wu Tang Clan, and Big Sean were just a number of additional surprises to this impromptu set of controversial, raw hip hop that West is most revered for.
This gig was all about the music. There was no elaborate stage design or production. There was no chit-chat, no attempts to connect to the audience through conversation. There was no need to. The revellers were maniacal. Among a sea of mobile phones and arms in the air, bodies were surfed across the heaving, sweaty crowd as they shouted out West’s lyrics in unison with him. The rip roaring intensity of the drum and bass that permeated the set left ears ringing and organs shaking as West stayed true to the focus of the gig, refusing auto tuned ballads in favour of virile and punishing bursts of rap.
His new single, All Day, was greeted like an old friend and stripped back versions of his most popular songs including Power, Cold and Black Skinhead were almost drowned out by a highly charged audience.
Some of the best reactions were in response to Britain’s very own native talent including JME and Skepta, who were endorsed by West as they infused the gig with their own music. Sexist references in songs were not only overlooked, but embraced by young females for whom being referred to as a b***h or w***e now lacks any real offense.
The performance was undoubtedly an exaltation of hip hop as one of the most expressive forms of modern music with West giving kudos to British style. West wrapped up the gig at 2.40am, the buzzing crowd departing having experienced what can only be described as an explosive display of one of music’s most influential designs.