Converse Get Dirty @ The 100 Club, Thursday, April 18

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Ghostface Killah/Doom

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Ghostface Killah/Doom

As their chosen aliases suggest, Doom and Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah have a dark side. There’s Doom, whose supervillian alter ego seems less an expression of self-empowerment and more the by-product of undiagnosed schizophrenia, while the headlining Ghostface we know as the self-styled warrior-monk of Shaolin – a paranoiac fantasy world Wu-Tang dreamt up in which samurai of the black underclass battle evil sprits in the Clan’s hometown borough of Staten Island. And as the 100 Club fills to capacity, within the red-painted walls of this subterranean purgatory the heat is rising. Then the show begins, and you’re reminded of the difference between person and persona. You couldn’t imagine a more warm, playful and crowd-pleasing double act than the two rappers whose character-based approach is designed to distance them from their audience.

Garbed in signature chrome mask, from the neck up Doom is the X-Men’s Magneto with a mic. Otherwise he’s a baggy-clothed slacker fresh off the weed train, who when he isn’t laughing wheezily from the bottom of his belly is beatboxing and teasing Hackney b-boys out front.

Ghostface Killah’s Wu-Tang-heavy set is riddled with Eddie Murphy-style quips, unabashed showmanship and carefree improvisation, imploring DJ Technician to “surprise him” before rapping the crap out of the selected track with jaw-dropping virtuosity. Mid-set he invites two fans onstage for a rap battle that sees a kid from Pimlico rock a room of 24-hour party people to the beaming approval of a hip-hop idol.

Back-to-back covers of ODB’s ‘Shimmy Shimmy Ya’ and Biggie’s ‘Hypnotize’ incite pandemonium. If live rap is often notoriously dodgy, DJ-driven sets like the one Technician delivers tonight showcase the genre’s best qualities, his turntablism shifting dextrously through rewinds, song-snippets and samples with the emphasis on unpredictability and dancing. It feels like the halcyon days of ’80s block parties – and as Ghostface declares: “Tonight is about community.”

John Calvert