"This show is going to be remembered. This show is going to be remembered as the show of this time," Boy Better Know co-founder JME told Beats 1 last week. Hype had been growing ever since British grime MC and producer Skepta announced the show back in August, reaching a level of expectation that seemed almost impossible to live up to.
Alexandra Palace, a 10, 000 capacity venue only a few miles away from where Skepta grew up, was an appropriately grand venue, reflecting how far he and the UK scene have come, from pirate radio to global recognition. For Skepta, the show was the final jewel in a glittering 2016, which has seen him reach a level of success that only a few UK rappers have achieved—all the more impressive given his complete independence from major labels.
For Skepta, the show was the final jewel in a glittering 2016, which has seen him reach a level of success that only a few UK rappers have achieved.
Konnichiwa, Skepta's Mercury Prize winning, UK Gold-certified album has already achieved landmark status in British urban music, a project as important as any since Dizzee's Boy In Da Corner or The Streets' Original Pirate Material. Despite being only six months old, the tracks performed from the album already felt like classic records, with the crowd chanting almost every word back to the Tottenham MC.
Skepta began by performing the ominous "No Security," with the darkly triumphant track setting the tone for the rest of the evening. The lighting and stage design was elaborate but served to reinforce what the night was all about—the same raw energy as a sweaty underground grime rave, just on a bigger scale. The theatrical pyrotechnics culminated in a burning car appearing on stage for the closing minutes of the set, which again demonstrated the level Skepta is now working at.
There were plenty of rumors circulating amongst those in attendance of a possible guest appearance from Drake or A$AP Rocky, but it became clear that this show was solely about representing Skepta and the UK scene. The blistering 75-minute set managed to fit in a number of high-profile guests including Giggs, Lethal Bizzle, D Double E, fellow Mercury nominee Kano, and of course the rest of Boy Better Know. Alongside the established artists were up-and-coming artists like Novelist and Section Boyz, who joined Skepta for "Lyrics" and "The Worst" respectively. North London was further represented by opener Abra Cadabra and Wretch 32, who joined Skepta on stage to perform "Liberation" from his own album Growing Over Life.
it became clear that this show was solely about representing Skepta and the UK scene.
Although the name on the ticket was Skepta, the night was a reflection of how far the UK grime/rap scene has grown over the past few years. Four of the artists who performed have dropped UK top ten albums in the past twelve months, which two years ago would have seemed impossible, not to mention that two of them were nominated for the prestigious Mercury Prize. However, despite the abundance of guests, Skepta was still able to dominate the proceedings and there was no doubt that this was his show. This was the completion of a journey from dark introspection on the now infamous "Underdog Psychosis" video, through his reawakening on 2012's Blacklisted, to his leap to global stardom with Konnichiwa.
That's not to say that performing at this level is the pinnacle for Skepta, in fact, the general feeling seemed to be that this was just the end of round one. As Giggs told Beats 1 in the run-up to the show, "Yeah it’s like the biggest show so far but, let’s be honest man, it’s gonna get bigger and bigger." Skepta closed the show by performing "Man (Gang)," stood atop a burning car with his arms outstretched and surrounded by his family. The message seemed clear—we are here.
Watch Skepta's full Alexandra Palace show on Apple here.