Last year, Skepta was due to take his first trip to the US for a tour that included slots at Coachella. It surely would have been yet another peak in his incredible 2016 – 12 months that saw him hit Number Two in the charts with ‘Konnichiwa‘, have that same record be certified gold just six months after release, win the Mercury Music Prize, gain countless Album Of The Year plaudits plus many other awards along the way, and headline a triumphant end-of-year sold-out show at London’s Alexandra Palace. Ultimately, the US government decided not to allow him to bring his unstoppable rise stateside, denying his visa application.
On Sunday (June 4), Skepta rolls up to New York’s Governors Ball festival with something to prove. He’s finally been allowed into America and has been working his way across the country since kicking off the Banned From America tour in California in April. It’s his first show in New York, a city that’s home to some of hip-hop’s most influential and iconic stars, and one whose residents are more than a little discerning. Grime might have been embraced by stars like Drake and Kehlani, but so far it’s been hard to tell what everyday music fans make of the very British genre.
Within seconds of Skepta stepping on stage, it becomes abundantly clear. The USA is not just ready for a grime invasion, but lapping it up. The Bacardi tent is heaving and not just because it’s raining outside. As soon as throbbing bass signals the start of ‘Konnichiwa’, arms are raised and bodies jerking, and things only get more primal as the set continues with a fiery ‘That’s Not Me’.
It’s not just the best known anthems from Skeppy’s catalogue that get the big reactions either. A thumping ‘It Ain’t Safe’ has a pit forming, while when the MC takes things back to the ‘Blacklisted’ mixtape, a surprising amount of those present (considering how far we are from the London estates grime originated on) go just as mad.
London and the UK might have been in the grips of Skepta hero worship for a while now, but America – or New York at least – aren’t about to be left behind on that front. Skeppy only has to so much as ask who has any weed before the stage is being bombarded by joints. Every time he asks “Where my energy crew at?” the crowd responds by turning things up even more and turning the tent into a steaming, humid mass that reaches critical levels as the set reaches the end with furious versions of ‘Shutdown’ and ‘Man’, the bass hammering as hard as everyone is dancing. No wonder Skepta is all smiles throughout the performance – the grime resurgence is truly going global.