Sadiq Khan might have scored the votes last Thursday but surely Skepta is the most powerful man in London right now.
The grime MC flexed his muscle as the king of the scene with a celebratory gig in the capital last night, shutting down Camden’s KOKO alongside Wiley, Giggs, brother JME and the rest of the Boy Better Know crew.
Essentially a solo show to celebrate the release of new album ‘Konnichiwa’, Skepta stepped onstage and told fans that his record is Number One on the UK Charts at the midweek stage. He faces competition from Radiohead but the fiercely independent artist is outselling Beyonce, Drake and Prince, so he was in the mood to mark the occasion.
Despite the album only being released three days prior, fans knew every word to the ‘Konnichiwa’ material including ‘Lyrics’, which saw Lewisham teenager Novelist join Skepta on stage. Wiley, meanwhile, made a rare live appearance and was met with huge cheers as he came to the front to perform ‘Corn On The Curb’, highlighting the history of the genre with the lines: “I was there back in the day when it was garage, And them man said they wanna get rid of MCs, But them man couldn’t get rid of MCs, Cause since then, we’ve become bigger MCs.”
This paved the way for more and more MCs to join in with a seemingly never-ending list of names emerging from the crew gathered at the back of the stage to take the mic and steal their moment. Skepta’s brother JME was charm and charisma personified, providing regular doses of energy throughout the night, including his verse on ‘That’s Not Me’. Meanwhile, fellow BBK member Jammer was all flailing limbs and overflowing energy, eventually ending up in the audience.
Dancing across the stage in his trademark style, a combination of fist pumps and the thinking face emoji, Skepta dived into his back catalogue too with ‘Not Your Average Joe’ and ‘Too Many Man’ brought out from the vaults. The latter proved timely when Skepta noted the gig was “a sausage party” after asking to hear from the girls in the audience prior to ‘Ladies Hit Squad’.
“For me this is Independence Day”, Skepta said at one point as he reiterated that every physical copy of ‘Konnichiwa’ has come from his house. “Man’s Number One.”
Eventually the focus shifted away from ‘Konnichiwa’ and on to a rollcall of grime’s finest with Giggs popping up with JME on ‘Man Don’t Care’ and Solo 45 sending an already rowdy crowd into a sea of circle pits with a rabid ‘Feed ‘Em To The Lions’ as Skepta stood on a speaker, assesing the madness in front of him.
The accolades kept on coming, with JME handing Skepta a plaque during the middle of ‘Shutdown’ to mark the single passing 400,000 sales and being certified gold. Skepta looked humbled by the moment, JME seemed terrified the glass frame might get broken by one of the thirty plus people on stage by then.
The triumphant gig ended with ‘Man (Gang)’. Every single MC on stage was at the front by this point, the majority in BBK merchandise, as the Queens Of The Stone age sample echoed around the venue. It marked the high point in a remarkable period for Skepta: Number One in the charts and with his peers and fans all there to witness it in his home town.
“That’s all I’ve ever wanted,” he told Time Out this week, “for London to have a credible musical voice. I will honestly die happy knowing that I saw it happen.” More alive than ever, Skepta’s given voice to his city and a whole new generation. Number One or not, tonight feels like a special chapter in his ongoing renaissance, proof that this MC’s bloody-mindedness and charisma has proved a potent mix.