It has to be said that no one really knew what to think of Corbin when he initially piqued the internet’s interest as Spooky Black. Was this all a very elaborate joke that someone put a lot of effort into? Or was this a serious and talented artist hiding behind a veil of irony? The more we hear and see of Corbin, the easier it is to believe the latter. But seeing him live does more for his authenticity than any Shlohmo-produced track could. When I saw Corbin perform alongside Psymun at Birthdays, London, on Friday night, it proved something important: he can really fucking sing.
Surrounded by those attaching themselves to the latest Tumblr craze, those who were curious about the hype, as well as those there for his impressive talent, Corbin and Psymun’s audience was strangely mixed. Amongst shouts of “where’s Bobby?” and “where’s your du-rag, mate,” it seems there are still a few people that are missing the point. This isn’t an artist who wants you to be interested in him as an internet curiosity—his art is now being presented in a way that demands you take it seriously.
Needless to say, though, Corbin’s talent is very real, even if some of his fanbase are only there as an extension of their Sad Boy appreciation of bizarre internet culture (s/o the dude beside me making up his own lyrics to “Worn”). Glimpsed only briefly in his output thus far, Corbin showcased a wide range and copious passion at his first show in the UK. His stage presence was a little muted, but his voice more than made up for his inexperience. In between songs he muttered everything with a smirk on his face, half-jokingly referring to “Without U” as a “choon” at one point. His persona is strange, confusing, and very endearing.
Speaking with artists that know him, I’ve been told you have to experience his voice in person to believe it, but I don’t think anyone in the tiny Birthdays venue was really expecting the level of vocal performance he ended up giving. Occasionally straining himself to deliver a few particularly gruff lines, his singing commandeered the room. Weaving amongst Psymun’s beautifully played guitar, which sits atop the original track’s beats flawlessly, this was the type of show to turn doubters into stans.
Considering he’s only 16, he still has a long way to go, but man if he isn’t giving it his best shot already.