“Where’s the original Skepta supporters out today?” Tottenham rapper Skepta, aka 33-year-old Joseph Junior Adenuga, has waited a long time to shout this from Glastonbury‘s Pyramid stage. He’s championed grime for over a decade, even during its lean period – when the likes of Dizzee Rascal teamed up with Robbie Williams in a race to the bottom for lowest common denominator big bucks – and in recent years has returned to oversee its return to the mainstream.
This time, no compromises are necessary. Skepta’s main stage set is coolly assured. He knows he’s the boss of the grime resurgence – and so does this sprawling audience. Naturally, the show draws heavily on his latest album ‘Konnichiwa’, which was released to acclaim just two months ago. Already everyone seems to know almost every single word. After opening with the agenda-setting title track (“I been killing it 10 years on the road / That’s a permanent mark / They can’t smudge me”), he rolls out ‘That’s Not Me”, his anthem for self-actualisation and casting aside the gaudiness and tackiness of those sell-out years. In cream trousers and a jacket that looks suspiciously like crushed velvet, he’s certainly looks suave as he raps, “Dressing like a mess / Nah, that’s not me.”
If Skepta stands for anything, it’s being apart from the crowd and remaining true to yourself. “Where’s all the people that do what they want?” he asks at one point, inviting the crowd to raise their middle fingers if they fit the description. “Where’s my independent gang?” That’s why this set is so thrilling: he contrives to make this collection of perfectly formed grime track sound like a moment, a movement. The Skepta school of self-help: just be whoever the fuck you want to be.
He introduces the buoyant ‘Crime Riddim’ as “my personal favourite” (and you’ve not lived until you’ve seen a massive Pyramid Stage crowd scream, “Feds wanna shift man / Wanna put me in a van / Wanna strip a male” in unison) and somehow inspires a brutal mosh pit with the languid ‘It Ain’t Safe”.
He rolls out instant classic 2015 single ‘Shutdown’, which of course draws the biggest response of the set, and wraps up with recent single ‘Man’, for which he’s joined by members of his BBK crew, Jammer and Frisco, as well south London rapper Novelist. It’s probably the only Pyramid stage set where you’ll a cyclist cruising around at the back of the stage. But this is Skepta: he just does not bow to your expectations