Skepta’s affiliation with the North West of England goes way beyond his performance at the Warehouse Project on Saturday; “It’s the second home” he explained to Hattie Collins in a Red Bull interview back in 2015. (Real name) Joseph Adenuga has always expressed admiration for the hustle of Mancunians, and his style has been inherently inspired by Manchester’s streets. SK’s latest Nike collaboration, on the classic Shox silhouette, pays homage to the uniform adopted by many roadsters in Rainy City, as do the windbreakers he previously released with the sportswear giants.
After an extensive European tour, the North Londoner’s first stop back in the U.K was at Manchester’s legendary Warehouse Project. The industrial surroundings have always suited Skepta, last year he graced Printworks, and headlined Lovebox - where he turned the stage into what could be perceived as a decrepit, abandoned factory.
The line up, co-curated by Skep, hosted an array of talent from across the country - it could have easily been a London-centric bill, but enlisting Jaykae, Black Josh and Choblocop showed the grime legend’s appreciation for rap scenes, and accents, from all around the U.K. There was a strong sense of unity throughout the whole night, with each artist passionately performing their music and transferring that energy into the lively crowd.
Excessive cuing and drugs searching meant we missed most of Flohio’s set, which is pretty gutting because we’ve wanted to see her for a while. There was absolutely no time to moan though; 5 minutes later Birmingham’s Jaykae was bounding onto the stage with an infectious spirit, spitting effortlessly over DJ Hype and Hazard’s 'Bricks Don’t Roll'. It was the Brummie’s own classics that got the biggest reception though; if you haven’t seen him perform Toothache, it really is a hair raising experience. The conviction Jaykae delivers his with bars live is just as compelling as on record, which cannot be said for most emcees.
With adrenaline pumping through our veins, our first time seeing Octavian was nearing, we thought M Huncho would make quite a good toilet break. Getting to the urinals is borderline impossible at Warehouse Project; we didn’t see any fights break out for Skep, but there was a lot of shoving between men who desperately needed to drain their dragon.
Octo came flying out, wearing some of the soon to be released Supreme x Nike clobber; the London come Frenchman is slowly becoming the face of America’s most beloved skate brand. His setlist was dominated by tunes off Endorphins: 'Bet', 'King Essie' and 'Take That' must have caused a few broken ankles, and jiving away to 'Move Me' and 'Party Here' was a nice wind down before he brought out the whole of Essie Gang for 'Pattern Chanel'.
After Shorty and Jammer provided a textbook grime warm up, it was time for Skepta. Ignorance Is Bliss is quickly becoming our favourite album of his, despite the meticulous nature of Konnichiwa, and the genre defying Blacklisted. As soon as the opening string score of 'Pure Water' blasted from DJ Maximum’s decs, roars came from the lively crowd.
The quality of Skepta’s new record is so exceptional that he could power through more than half of it in the first 7 songs, and still have the audience at the palm of his hand. ‘Redrum’ got a particularly welcoming reception; the antagonistic, oriental instrumental must have created a few cracks in the Warehouses' walls.
It’s easy to forget the bangers Adenuga has featured on over the last couple of years. ‘Lean 4 Real’, with Playboi Carti, and ‘Inglorious’, off Slowthai’s ‘Nothing Great About Britain’, provided the perfect intersection of surprising cuts from the setlist - as well as the seminal ‘Praise The Lord’. Headie One came out for ‘Back to Basics’ too, which took us completely off guard. The Drill king came on and absolutely donned the stage, looking completely unfazed by the 10,000 fans gawping up at him. Konnichiwa classics ‘Man (Gang)’, ‘Shut Down’, ‘It Ain’t Safe’ and ‘That’s Not Me’ came in the penultimate section of the performance, before ‘Love Me Not’ produced an emotional ending.
As ‘Greaze Mode’ concluded the night, we wondered out with the remaining energy our bodies could conjure up. Anyone seeing Skep on his upcoming U.K dates are in for a treat; the London legend still has it in him despite becoming a Dad, and being another record into his time at the top of U.K music.