Black Josh’s venture to Brudenell Social Club had been a long time coming. Manchester’s lyrical maverick was due to play in Leeds two years ago - when I was in my first year of uni and a world wide pandemic was barely fathomed. It was his name, amidst the stalwart roster of indie bands, on Brudes’ calendar that really stood out.
And here I am, two years later, struggling to pin down a dissertation proposal and finding myself progressively snowed under the heaps of work third year slaps you around the face with. If you had told me all those months ago that this would be my first gig at Brudenell, Leeds’ most historic and culturally enriching venue, I probably would have choked on my Tetley’s and laughed at you.
But here we were, finally, on a Monday night ready to witness the opening date of the self-confessed Sweg Lawd's debut national tour. For those who don’t know, Black Josh is a centrifugal figure in Manchester’s modern musical landscape. Several album releases on Blah records, collaborations with the Mouse Outfit and a key voice in Levelz, Maneh’s’ 14-strong crew of musical creatives, he has overcome a cartel of rappers to become one of the most invigorating voices in British music.
Before we bear witnessed to the facts of Josh’s lyrical capabilities, fellow North-West artist Sleazy F Baby was sparking the audience to life with his abrasive blends of boom-bap and trap. ‘All Blahk tracksuit’, with its tumbling drums, rolling bass lines and guttural melodies, got the blood pumping, contracting everyone into a frenzied state and setting the tone for what more was to come.
Sporting sold out 616 merch one could only wish to own, Josh’s silhouette soon emerged from the greenroom. He ascended to the centre stage with a rapturous applause - hi-fiving the front row’s thrusted hands and playing up to the phone cameras looking up his nose. The sound was noticeably quiet as he started, and the 28 year-old wasn’t best pleased. He wheeled up his own tune and red-lined the decks - testing the soundman’s patience and the quality of Brudenell’s speakers. It’s this ‘I-Don’t-Give-A-Fuck’, Bloody Nora attitude that fans love him for, and it only took a matter of seconds for them to witness such incredulousness.
As the gig proceeded, Black Josh could barely keep himself on stage. At every given opportunity, he was in the audience; commanding the cult following through mosh-pits; making them risk limbs in appreciation of his hazardous hip-hop. The room was packed with lyrical acquaintances, who governed fans with frequent crowd surfing and beer spraying. It was nice to see Leeds’ very own, the Northaze, on stage; vibing hard to tracks like Fisher Price, Paul Scholes and The Birds too.
It wasn’t long before the 616 merch was off, and Josh was in an on-season Real Madrid home shirt. Like our European footballing counterparts, the rapper is well accustomed to accolades of the highest regard. A sold out opening show on his first U.K. headline tour is just another to add to his cabinet. There was an admirable, reciprocated energy between the wordsmith and his fans last Monday, best optimised by Own Ting, which closed off the set. Every last bit of ELIZA’s crooned vocals were howled back at him between his verses; signing off an unforgettable night of English hip-hop in Leeds’ leading music venue.
Rating: 7.9/10 (Brudenell turn your bass up)