Wu Block

Relentless Garage, London, January 15

“All of you, I want you to give me the peace sign. But not so fast!” bellows Ghostface Killah. Dressed in a bright white tee – in contrast to his dark, coruscating brand of East Coast rap – the Wu lynchpin hits London tonight with fellow NYC rap veteran Sean ‘Sheek Louch’ Jacobs tonight to promote their new collaboration, Wu Block. “The peace sign ain’t real peace, you know. Your fingers are divided. Bring those fingers together so they’re one ’n’ represent us all coming together. That’s real peace, right there.” A second passes, and a boyish grin creeps across his face. “Also, that way it looks like a gun. BRAP!”

Ghostface, real name Dennis Coles, is full of contradictions like this. The pair’s grimy hip-hop headrush of a debut album, 2012’s ‘Wu Block’, was full of angry missives about life on the street – a life that Coles, now 42 and with two decades of platinum-selling records with Staten Island heroes Wu-Tang Clan to his name, likely left behind a long time ago. Not that the crowd packed into a bustling Relentless Garage seem to mind.

Weaving songs from their combined catalogues around outings for songs from their eponymous album, the duo’s chemistry is electrifying, with songs like ‘Stick Up Kids’ charging the room with energy like a hospital defibrillator. Revisiting Wu-Tang’s first single, ‘Protect Ya Neck,’ Ghostface quite literally crowdsources a replacement for erstwhile bandmate Method Man, pulling a brave volunteer from the audience to fill in on his verses, while Louch pulls cuts from his D-Block canon – including ‘Mighty D-Block (2 Guns Up)’.

The pair may be long in the tooth, but between Ghostface’s barks and Louch’s volatile flow, it’s clear this evening that two of hip-hop’s longest-standing and most compelling characters aren’t mellowing out just yet.

Al Horner