Live Review: Yo! Majesty

Will personnel and personal issues stop Florida’s finest making Sheffield dance? Not likely. Leadmill, Sheffield, Thursday March 19

I’m not an entertainer, I’m a Minister Of The Truth,” recently departed Yo! Majesty MC Shunda K told NME last year. It seems her erstwhile bandmates disagree with that sentiment, because their performance tonight errs almost completely on the side of the former; it’s hip-hop fun par excellence, with all personal baggage seemingly left on the carousel – no mean feat given the past few months’ trials and tribulations.

Let us explain. First there were three MCs in Yo! Majesty: Jwl B, Shon B and Shunda K. By the time debut album ‘Futuristically Speaking… Never Be Afraid’ dropped late last year, Shon B had left the fold. Jwl B and Shunda K then fell out very publicly, suggesting Yo! Majesty was over. Now, this is where it gets complicated. In January, Jwl B did some time in a Florida prison, leaving Shunda K flying solo and claiming her partner-in-rhyme was sacked from the group. Then when Jwl B got out, ignored her and rejoined the tour, Shunda K quit immediately. Shon B returned to take her place. Confused yet? You’re not the only one.

What we do know is this: tonight, even though the Leadmill’s smaller room is far from full, Yo! Majesty are a dance party in excelsis. Despite the obvious personal difficulties (Jwl and Shon don’t seem overly enamoured of each other), their crunk-inflected, bass-heavy beats are utterly relentless and those X-rated lyrics? Bottomless. “I can’t stand the way you breathe/But I like the way you fuck me”, hollers Jwl B on one of the night’s most emotionally charged selections, ‘Fucked Up’.

She ends the song topless and grinning. Earlier, the ladies in the house are encouraged to “put your hands between your thighs and rub on your monkey”, with Jwl playfully slipping a palm inside her own trousers. In a genre renowned for its misogyny, the popularity of Yo! Majesty’s femme-centric, sexually confrontational approach is certainly daring, but they always wrap their rhetoric in a fun-friendly format.

As on ‘Hit It And Quit It’, a track at once extolling both the virtues of safe sex and raving like its 2099; that’s why they’re such a compelling proposition.

And all the intra-band politics? It seems to be a case of “fuck dat shit” (as the night’s best and final track, ‘Club Action’, has it), with the Yo! Majesty party wagon rolling on regardless. At least for now…

Rob Webb