October 12th saw a gig tipped as “Hip-Hop show of the decade” take place in London, featuring the two components of critically acclaimed duo Madvillain – masked maniac rapper DOOM and the extremely talented producer Madlib – supported by a number of heavyweights and up and coming artists from both sides of the pond, including J Rocc, Freddie Gibbs, Kutmah, Illum Sphere, Dels and Jehst.
Both Madlib and DOOM have had a busy 2012, with Madlib wrapping up his 12-disc Madlib Medicine Show series with a 13th volume entitled Black Tape, and also producing two EP’s with Gang$ta Gibbs, with an LP expected soon. DOOM has arguably had his most active year since releasing Born Like This in 2009, with a further collaboration album JJ DOOM in August with Jneiro Jarel and work on the upcoming DOOMSTARKS album with Ghostface Killah.
With this being Madlib’s first UK gig in over three years, and DOOM’s recent cancellations and rumoured fake appearances, expectations were high – and thankfully they delivered.
The show began after a short wait with UK rappers Jehst and Micall Parknsun, who was sporting a cool Me, Myself & Akai tee named after an upcoming album. Opening with chants of “Who’s here to see Madlib and DOOM?!” causing to crowd to scream back in excitement, they got the hype train rolling, performing solo songs and ones that they’d done together. Their energy was electric, their performance only hampered by sound issues with the speakers, which resulted in poor acoustics with too much reverb for much of the night.
Following their performance, Dels was next onto stage. Backed up by drummer Kwake Bass behind him, Dels’ set felt a little more personal, perhaps as it was only him on the mic, and his eyes were constantly focused on the crowd before him. His performance was just as energetic though, as the talented drummer added another dynamic to the melodies banging out of the speakers. If anybody wasn’t bobbing their head before, they didn’t have a choice now with Dels’ flow and Kwake’s beats commanding us.
After Dels’ set, Illum sphere continued the show with a smooth DJ set. Kutmah followed with his set and an ear for head-knocking beats, many of them exclusives from his friends, playing stuff from artists such as Jeremiah Jae, Samiyam and Teebs. His DJ skills are as top notch as his song choices, and he kept the crowd’s eager anticipation for the headliners to maximum.
Once Kutmah had wrapped up J Rocc walked on and started to DJ. The crowd was already roaring, and by the time a stand-in host asked “Are y’all ready for DOOM?” the crowd was on a high. “Banished” from the album JJ DOOM then started to play, with DOOM walking on to stage in an orange safety jacket (perhaps an ode to London, his birthplace) to joyous cheers from the audience. This was no imposter; it was the real villain himself.
“Accordion,” Madvillainy’s most infamous song followed and from the point DOOM opened with his legendary lines “Livin’ off borrowed time, the clock tick faster” much of the crowd was rapping with him verbatim for the rest of his set set, which covered songs from Madvillainy including “ALL CAPS” to MM.. FOOD with “Hoe Cakes” and Born Like This with “Ballskin.” Anyone expecting DOOM to be a slow or dreary performer would have been very surprised, as he was vibrant throughout, and ran about delivering his lines full of character. He even stopped to do a “Mobot” and Bolt pose every now and then, garnering screams from the crowd each time.
I was amazed by his performance, but couldn’t help but wonder why J Rocc was behind the boards instead of Madlib, as he of course produced the Madvillain songs and a few others that DOOM performed. Following his set he gave London a shout out and really made it feel like a homecoming for him, even though he’s lived here for at least the past year. As he walked off stage the unsatisfied crowd screamed for one last piece of DOOM, to which he obliged by performing “Change the Box” from Vaudeville Villain, an album DOOM recorded under the name Viktor Vaughn, “Benzie Box” from the DangerDOOM collaboration album with Dangermouse and “Rhinestone Cowboy” from Madvillainy. Halfway through “Benzie Box” Madlib walked on stage and began dancing behind DOOM, getting into the mix of things as his set was next.
Anyone that’s a fan of Madlib will know that the Beat Konducta’s persona is almost as enigmatic as DOOM’s, possibly more so, despite his image being postered across the internet. As he began spinning records starting his Medicine Show Live, his mysterious personality stayed shrouded, as he stayed relatively quiet, rocking his head to the beats he was playing and often making salute signals while spinning Dilla records, later visiting various time periods and genres such as House, R&B, Soul and of course Hip-Hop; I couldn’t help but feel like he was letting the crowd into a small part of his cryptic character.
After Madlib’s set ended, J Rocc returned to the decks and asked a question the whole crowd was ready to answer, “Are y’all ready for that gangsta shit?!” As the crowd roared Freddie Gibbs emerged from backstage, opening with “Before I do anything, before I rap on this stage, who got some weed? You got some motherfucking weed bring that shit to the front, you gone be backstage all access my n—a.”, which got the weedheads in the crowd cheering. After the crowd failed to deliver, Freddie engaged with the audience, getting them to chant “Fuck Police!” and then opened with the eponymous intro to his latest album, B.F.K. A lot of the crowd knew Freddie Gibbs’ music, and those that didn’t quickly learned of his technical and lyrical ability as he ripped through the verses.
I last saw Freddie Gibbs live when he performed his first UK show back in April at East Village. Back then with a small stage to work with he killed his set, and to see him on such a larger stage now showed not only how much he’s grown in the public-eye, but also how much he’s grown as a performer. Gibbs has perfected the art of getting a crowd involved and throughout his set he had the crowd chanting and laughing; whether asking for a blunt, or pointing out the girl in the middle who kept “giving him the eyes.”
Following Freddie, J Rocc took the opportunity to spin some jams until two in the morning, and while he, Madlib and DOOM disappeared quite quickly after the show was over, Freddie Gibbs stayed around to take photos and autograph items from the crowd.
The interaction between Madlib, J Rocc, DOOM and Gibbs as they each took command of the stage felt like real friends just having fun, J Rocc jokingly reminding us often that it was the real DOOM performing, not an imposter, Gibbs and Madlib fist-bumping, DOOM and Madlib dancing during each other’s sets. The numerous acts involved in the night put on an unforgettable show, despite it being marred by sound issues that were never fully resolved. All in all everyone delivered, from the supporting acts to the headliners, and with the artists and crowd building off of everyone’s energy it ensured that we all had a night to remember.