New York rapper Desiigner treated the festival at the stunning Petrovaradin Fortress in Novi Sad, Serbia to wild Spiderman antics
There’s a moment when Desiigner clambers over 10 grand’s worth of TV camera on the dolly in the middle of the arena, looks at the two burly security guards clearing his way through the crowd and nods up towards the VIP balcony from which NME is reviewing EXIT’s day four when you think, ‘He’s coming our way’.
Health and safety might have had a twinge in the chest when the elastic-legged New York rapper took off all his jewellery to crowd-surf or got a piggy-back out into the circle pit during the dark, pounding ‘Overseas’. They no doubt had a mild aneurysm when he was carried all the way out to the sound desk during ‘Make It Out’ and climbed up the tower to rap on the roof like some kind of rhyme-spitting Spiderman. But once he’s bounced all over the camera crews filming the main stage and decides he’s going to scale the 40-foot wall up to the raised bar area, walk along the rim of the balcony and literally dance on NME’s table, there are probably full-on heart attacks going on backstage.
“This guy is the greatest performer on Earth!” yells his hype man, and the GOOD Music sensation behind 2016’s mega-hit ‘Panda’ certainly has no safety net. Part energised glitch rap gig, part parkour masterclass, Desiigner’s wild exploits are exactly the sort of revitalising insanity that EXIT needs after a day of being battered by torrential thunderstorms and very nearly washed out altogether. Various stages are closed early on as the site recovers, but a Rio carnival drum circle breaks out near the entrance tunnel as soon as the rain stops, the fortress party rages on and the main stage acts defy the elements to close the festival with its own rap lightning bolt.
“The storm and the rain tried to fuck us up, but we got through it,” says Skepta, headlining the last night with what he calls “the London city sound”. That’ll be chest-shaking grime bass, subtle club-crawling vibes, the occasional video game beat or Shinto inflection and a hearty slice of tower block garage, topped off with Skepta’s infectious, bounce-along chant raps. An opening ‘That’s Not Me’ comes adorned with visuals of drone surveillance over south London, and after a relatively chilled opening segment the set comes alive with the horn-slavered beats of ‘Crime Riddim’ and a trap-ist throb rap ‘Redrum’.
Skepta has developed enough outlier respect not to have to rely on the mass BBK stage invasion to give his shows event status anymore, but nonetheless Shorty emerges to drop sly shouts of “too many man” into the mix. Ultimately, though, this is Skepta proving he belongs right there alongside Stormzy at the top of festival bills, particularly when he emphasises his individuality – his seductive menace on ‘No Security’, a track crying out to soundtrack a vampire teen flick, and his explosive vitality on ‘Shutdown’.
Even early-doors, EXIT is up for getting down and dirty. As the local TV news crews film the site’s one small patch of mud like it’s Glastonbury 2016 round here, local superstar DJ Vojko V kicks things off with a set of slinky dub electropop and rave favourites, most notable for the bit where the entire crowd chants along with a Serbian dance track that sounds a whole lot like they’re shouting “Byker Grove!”. Then IADDB and her backing choir of limbo-soul angels arrive, crotches in hand, to drop subaqueous beats and mermaid R&B. Threatening to steal everyone’s girlfriend, encouraging widespread cunnilingus and insisting “if my nipple slips out don’t enjoy that shit, let me know, bitch”, she lays the minimalist future soul seduction on thick.
Jeff Mills ‘til four, Dax J ‘til six, Amelie Lens ‘til eight; a relieved and celebratory EXIT raves on until dawn and beyond. The storm tried to shut us down, but by god did Serbia party through it.