Bubba Sparxxx : London Astoria

The NME Carling Shows go all hip-hop for their sixth night at the London Astoria...

The sixth night of NME’s epic occupation of the Astoria provides a swift and enlightening survey of current hip-hop trends. For a start, there’s the feverishly-tipped British challenger in the shape of Skinnyman. The gaunt white Londoner has reputedly just signed a massive deal with Talkin’ Loud as the major labels try to cash in on the UK scene’s Roots Manuva-inspired credibility.

In fact, this is Skinnyman and his crew the Mud Family’s second appearance at the NME Carling Shows, following a shambolic guest slot with The Beta Band two years ago. This time, mercifully, they’re much better, climaxing with Skinnyman freestyling over Adam F & Redman’s awesome ‘Smash Sumthin”.

Tales of Finsbury Park council estates are a far cry from Princess Superstar, representing the jokey, ironic strain of contemporary rap. In the space of 30 minutes, she gets through three costume changes, forces her supporting rapper to wear a bathrobe and pretend to be Kool Keith, and tirelessly attempts to provoke the audience. For all the comedy, though, she’s a decent enough rapper – “I’m gonna own everything like I’m an apostrophe,” she announces early on – to trounce the novelties like Gonzales she’s usually compared with.

The audience, however, are keener on the old school. LA’s Dilated Peoples are sometimes a touch boring and worthy on record, but tonight, they’re awesome. Massive tours supporting Linkin Park have made their show a slick, dynamic, bullshit-free spectacle comparable to Jurassic 5’s great early shows a few years back.. It’s hard not to be impressed by the likes of ‘The Platform’ and ‘Work The Angles’. But, for all the rap skills of Rakaa and Evidence, they’re often mere warm-up men for the precise and brutal scratch symphonies of DJ Babu.

And finally, straight out of the Dirty South and part of the mighty Timbaland’s Beat Club stable, there’s Bubba Sparxxx. For 15 minutes, he is astonishing, a hyperactive shouting man in a baggy tracksuit that threatens to fall off at any moment. After careering through fragments of half a dozen tunes from his fine ‘Dark Days, Bright Nights’ debut, he conscientiously lets us know he’s off for a quick dump. The DJ mucks about for a few minutes, then he comes charging back on, throwing bogroll into the audience and bawling the superb ‘Ugly’. His top comes off, his arse is hanging out of his trousers, and the mind boggles at what exactly happened in the toilet. And that’s it: a ridiculous, frenetic 20 minute finale to hip-hop night. It’s been an education.

John Mulvey