The Rizzle Review: So Solid Reunion Tour!!!

music, Reviews, So Solid Crew, UK stuff

***GUEST REVIEW*** (by @wendiwrites)

As soon as it was announced in January that the So Solid Crew would be putting on a reunion concert, comments on the social networks were split between people being excited about it, and people automatically assuming that it would be a hot ghetto mess.  Fortunately I fell into the former category, and I’m so glad I did!

Doors opened at 7pm and as you’d probably expect, the process of getting into the O2 building itself wasn’t as straight-forward as it was when I came to see New Kids On The Block.  There were police at the top of the escalators at North Greenwich station, then a long queue outside (apparently for those with bags) as well as two police vans on either side of the entrance.  Inside the O2 we had to walk through the metal detectors, then to get into Indigo2 we had to have our bags go through the scanners.  I felt it only right to ask one of the bag check guys if our flight was on schedule.

At around 8.35 the host came on stage to start hyping up the audience, and a short while later he introduced the first of the So Solid Crew, DJ Oxide on the decks.  Oxide took us back to the good old days of UK Garage.  Most of us who were seated on the balcony were on our feet, and those standing on the ground floor just made it look like a rave.  I was in my zone when he played ‘Pulse X’ and ‘I Don’t Smoke The Reefer’ – my jams!!  After that little set, the host came back on to hype us up a little more and then introduced the So. Solid. Crewwwwwwww!

courtesy of pardonmyblog.co.uk

The vocal intro from their 2001 album ‘They Don’t Know’ was played, which then led into the famous sirens from Casualty and then the N the E the U T the R the I N with the O burst on to the stage to perform ‘Bound For The Reload.’  It was on!  (Sidenote: Neutrino’s body now… *fans herself*).  Next we heard the famous beat for ‘Oh No’ and Romeo (who changed his dapper suits about 3 times during the night) and Lisa Maffia came on stage to perform that and the remixed version.  We were bubblin’ hard!  That was followed by Megaman, MAC and Face performing ‘Haters’, then Neutrino coming back for ‘Up Middle Finger’.  Unfortunately they didn’t do the best part of that tune:  “When I say, you say, we say, they say MAKE SOME NOISE!”  Never mind, we were already making noise.  (During this time we spotted Chipmunk at the seats two rows in front of us, and Adam Deacon walking up the stairs on our left side).

Asher D came on to perform ‘Woah’, and other songs featured were ‘Rap Dis,’ (yes Harvey was there too) ‘Since You Went Away,’ ‘So Grimey’ (for which they had three girls dancing on stage, looking like they were pulled from any brothel – a bit random), ‘Deeper,’ ‘No Good 4 Me,’ and ‘Back In The Day.’  Swiss tugged at the heartstrings with his hit ‘Cry’ and JD did ‘Signal,’ then ‘It’s All Over,’ with Lisa Maffia.  Some of the highlights were Chipmunk (one of the special guests) performing a Movado song with Swiss, Megaman introducing us to his lookalike son, and one of my favourite moments; three female dancers performing an African-inspired routine to the instrumental of ‘Dilemma’ (one of the sexiest beats ever!).

However, the best moment came when the crew performed ‘They Don’t Know.’  It was followed by the introduction to the remix ‘Envy’ with Ms Dynamite’s vocals, and excitement was brewing in my belly.  Then Megaman tried to kill it by telling us that she was unable to make it and he wants us to sing her parts in the song, so after a rewind we all sang along with “Why dem all waaatching me/ Is it pure jeaaaalouseee yay..”  When it got to her verse – “When I step up on the microphone/explosive/ people learn to pimp an play like they know dis” – she came out on to the stage and everyone went crazy!  She only performed for that song, but it was a bit of icing on an enjoyable cake.

Of course we all know what the finale song was right?  Just before it started, Mega introduced us to the not-so-little kids we see and hear at the start ’21 Seconds’, then the whole crew came out to perform their number one hit, before closing the show with their ‘ritual’ outro.

The So Solid Crew did not disappoint at all.  They all looked as though they haven’t really aged in the last 10+ years (Skat D seemed to be the only member missing), the good vibe energy were there, and hopefully the police wasted their time that night.

Verdict:  Brrrrrap!

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The Rizzle Review: Kanye West at the Hammersmith Apollo

Kanye West, music, Reviews

Two weeks ago saw the announcement that Kanye West was to play a surprise “one-off” gig in London. Fair enough that one-off gig quickly became two which became three before stopping short of a full-on “one-off” World Tour…but I digress. Having not seen Kanye West perform solo since 2005, I purchased tickets to the Sunday concert with all the swiftness of a Kim Kardashian marriage (that’s very fast).

However, the night before the Sunday show, reports quickly began to emerge via twitter that Kanye had been showing erratic behaviour during the show, ranting against the Grammy’s (even though he’s won about 12 of them), dissing Justin Timberlake’s suit and tie and (perhaps my favourite) ending the concert part way through the Goldigger verse; “…and on his 18th birthday, she found out he wasn’t his”. With all that being said, I was pretty eager to hear what kind of show we’d be treated to on the following night.

The scene was set, covered in a white backdrop with a white sloped stage, the DJ’s built up the atmosphere playing tracks from Kanye’s Good Friday’s series before the main man himself slowly emerged from just behind the stage to “Way Too Cold (Theraflu)”. The crowd erupted, as did Kanye and it was pretty certain that this was going to be a show to remember, whether good, bad or ugly.

Kanye rattled through his substantial catalogue of hits in quick succession with minimal crowd interaction but maximum energy before disappearing off stage briefly. Emerging in a more somber mood wearing a bird mask, the show took on a different route. Kanye began rattling off songs from his “love it or hate it” 808’s and Heartbreaks album. It’s clearly evident that while this isn’t his most universally loved body of work (to put it mildly), Kanye definitely loves performing from it. And let’s ignore the fact that Kanye can’t sing.

Another thing that Kanye loves? Singing. Kanye went through the extended album version of Runway in true prog-rock style, stretching the song to roughly 10 mins. For the crowd at the front this became slightly uncomfortable, with people exchanging awkward glances as if to say “has this dude finished yet?”.

(pic from: thatretailchick.me)

Another mask change came later, this time with a diamond encrusted piece for Rihanna’s “Diamonds (remix)”. Good job the songs were good because at this stage, he’s erring on the wrong side of crazy, without going full throttle. However, we didn’t have to wait long for the next installment…

The encore song was “Touch The Sky” but as the song drew to a close Kanye started wailing like a banshee. The first couple of times it was cool. 8 screams in and it got a little awkward once again, before Kanye drops the mic on the floor and walks off stage.

How times have changed since I last saw Kanye at the same venue all those years ago. He’d shown glimpses of the ego that would eventually become his trademark (I seem to remember a rant on stage at the show where he lay on the floor just talking about the tabloids) but I wasn’t prepared for the mammoth fame that would come with his success and neither, it seems, was he.

Kanye definitely knows how to put on a good show. With no hype man in sight and with less extravagance than the Glow in the Dark or even the Watch The Throne tours, Mr West still managed to keep the crowd’s attention, even if for long periods they didn’t know what was going on. Kanye maintained creative control of the show throughout, ushering one of his stagehands away as they went to take away one of his masks and halting “All of The Lights” when he felt that the crowd weren’t rapping loud enough over the ‘MJ gone…our n*gga dead” part.

His choice of attire? A pristine white strait-jacket. Tongue in cheek? I’d like to think so. I really would like to think so. So that brings us to the scream at the end? To a seasoned Anguish at Amber Rose and Wiz Khalifa’s new born? Sorrow at Kim Kardashian trapping him? Anger at the Grammys? Or just attention seeking. I suspect it’s probably the last one but whichever reason it ultimately proves to be, like the concert itself, it is something that will keep his fans wondering and entertained for years to come.

The Rizzle Review: Kendrick Lamar at Hammersmith Apollo

Kendrick Lamar, Reviews

2012 was a pretty big year for hip-hop’s newest saviour Kendrick Lamar and fresh from the release of his album Good Kid, M.A.A.D city he’s back in the UK, on the promotion trail during the cold snap.

KDot, complete with his now trademark black leather shirt, hit the stage to soulful sounds of the intro to Art of Peer Pressure and immediately had the crowd eating out of his hands.The setlist contained tracks from all three of his major LP’s; the aforementioned Good Kid, Section 80 and Overly Dedicated and this definitely gave it an authentic feel, rather than just performing the mainstream hits from his major label debut.
Hip-hop’s newest saviour kept it simple, dressed in in all black and barely any bling, save for the gold watch on his wrist. His DJ supplied him with the hits and Kendrick delivered without the need for any unnecessary hype men (a pet peeve of mine) or shouting over a recording of himself (another pet peeve of mine).
Kendrick knows his fanbase, acknowledging those overly dedicated (pun intended) fans that have been with him from day one. This allowed him a variety of tracks to choose from switching from the Janet Jackson sampling ‘Poetic Justice’ to the jazzy, soulful, sleeper hit ‘A.D.H.D’.
Kendrick’s lyrical dexterity is what makes him one of the most exciting rappers around and this was demonstrated with ease throughout the show, switching up the ferocious flow on ‘Backseat Freestyle’ to slowing it right back down on ‘Don’t Blow My High’, which meant that the show never got boring.
In fact, Kendrick kept it interesting between songs through regular crowd interaction and even picking on one particular member of the crowd who didn’t quite seem to be feeling the show as much as everyone else in the room, and then proceeded to launch into ‘Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe’. Kinda apt…

I have a new found respect for Kendrick Lamar. He’s an artist who genuinely cares about his craft and in his show he catered to his hardcore fans and also the new fans who’ve just jumped on the wave (yeah, that’s probably me) without compromising. He kept the old fans happy by giving them what they want, while simultaneously giving the newbies a lesson on his evolution to see how the buzz started.

The Rizzle Review: Cruel Summer

Kanye West, music, Reviews

The British summertime. Once filled with green fields, long, hot sunny days and short nights. Now replaced, somewhat rather harshly, with a few outbursts of sun, grey, gloomy days and umbrellas. Some would say that our Summers and the expectations surrounding them are rather…Cruel. Something that Kanye West has probably experienced during the making of this album. And if, on purchasing the G.O.O.D music family’s debut collection, you were expecting a body of musical  reflections on the effects of global warming, you, sir, would be frankly mistaken.

Instead what we have here is a slickly produced mixtape slash album featuring some of the “finest” talents in US hiphop today. But is it actually any good?

As an avid hip-hop fan, I’ve been waiting for this album for a good few months, dating back to the time when it was originally going to be released in the summer (and it actually made sense to call it Cruel Summer). In this time, Kanye released a whopping 5 tracks off the album (which of course everyone and their mother downloaded).

In all fairness, those singles all bump. Pretty hard. Special shout out to Mr Cheeks 2 Chaiiiiiiinz’s closing verse on the trunk rattling, Trap inspired Mercy; Ghostface Killah’s verse on the Ghost-sampled New God Flow and the grimey, dingey posse cut, Clique.

In today’s music climate, if you’re going to release 5 singles from one project, you are going to need a healthy collection of album cuts to back it up and to Kanye’s credit, there are a few notable other cuts here. R Kelly (love him or loathe him) puts in a stellar performance on the anthemic opener “To the World”. “Higher” features the Dream doing his best impression of a wounded, robotic woman and a rejuvenated Mase offering some choice words to his former Badboy labelmate/Islamic convert Loon (“you know I’m not Muslim my n***a, I’m about my bacon”). The exquisitely produced, 80’s sounding “Bliss” finds crooner, John Legend and socialite-cum-singer, Teyana Taylor both in fine voice.

But once you deduct those tracks, you definitely feel that Cruel Summer could have been so much more and unfortunately, there are numerous misteps. For all the reppin’ that Common does for G.O.O.D. music, he is criminally underused – just one short verse on the illuminati-ode, “In The Morning”. And D’Banj’s inclusion in that same song is downright laughable – some random crooning in the background. Almost a slap in the face for the whole Afrobeats movement.

In comparison, for some inexplicable reason Cy-hi The Prince is all over this album despite his lyrics being that of more of pauper.

Oh yeah, and Kid Cudi’s track ‘Creepers’ is boring. There. I said it.

Cruel Summer, for better or worse, offers a snapshot of hip-hop in 2012 (albeit doing so in a much slicker way than the average stuff that tops the charts these days). Lots of bass, slight paranoia, over-indulgence and some good punchlines. There was a lot of hype over this album and in all honesty, it was always going to be a tough feat. But compared to Kanye’s previous albums Watch the Throne and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, this album fails to take any of the musical steps forward that they did. It’ll still sell by the bucket load due to the extensive guestlist but frankly, there isn’t really much new ground being broken here.

The Rizzle Review – Lauryn Hill

Lauryn Hill, music, Reviews

When you think of Lauryn Hill, many images come to mind. For many, it’s this:

For others, it’s this:

Yes, when I was first offered the chance to visit the elusive Miss Hill (as she apparently likes to be called) in concert, my initial reaction was one of nostalgia. A time back in the late 90’s of hazy summer afternoons and ‘Everything is Everything’ being played on repeat at our family friend’s BBQ. 

But of course, that was 14 years ago and a lot has changed in that time. After that amazing debut album and a controversial unplugged album, Ms Hill has been largely reclusive, only resurfacing for a few random performances. Reviews were generally mixed, from poor vocals to questionable song re-arrangements (Ex Factor in treble time, anyone?), so my expectations were low.

*sigh*

The warm-up act was DJ Target, who put on a very stellar set playing old school hip-hop and reggae/dancehall before the main act appeared. My first surprise was that she came on pretty much on time – official word was 9pm but she came on at roughly 9:30pm (still gotta maintain some diva tendencies, y’all).

The second thing that struck me was the strength of her voice. I was expecting something hoarse and raspy but the sound coming through those speakers when she first made her way to the stage via a reggae/rock rendition of ‘Killing Me Softly’ was enough to give the crowd goosebumps.

Ms Hill performed the majority of the tracks from her breakthrough album ‘The Miseducation of…’ but switched up most of the songs halfway through with entirely new arrangements, which contrary to prior reports actually pushed these classics straight into the present day. Yes, some songs could probably have been left in their original form (Ex Factor, Lost Ones) but I don’t think this really mattered too much. It could even be said that these arrangements served as a glimpse of what a 2012 Lauryn Hill album would sound like perhaps?

My personal highlight of the show was when she went through a Fugees breakdown, evoking memories of being in my dad’s car or staying up late to watch ‘Flava’ on channel 4. ‘Fugee La’, ‘How Many Mics’ and ‘Ready or Not’ got the crowd hyped during the second half of the show and these were played more or less in the original format.

By this time, you could tell that Lauryn was becoming more and more comfortable with performing and even briefly gave some clues to the crowd about why it has taken her so long to get to this point in her life. You could see that she genuinely looked happy to be there and interacted with the audiences members, even singing happy birthday to one lucky individual.

Slightly erratic gaps between songs (perhaps a sound check hadn’t been performed earlier) and wardrobe malfunctions (poor choice of dress) aside, the concert served as a reminder to everyone why we fell in love with Lauryn Hill all those years ago. Above all, I was just happy to see one of the legendary entertainers that was such a part of my childhood and teenage years back on stage, happy, sane and doing what she does best. I’m not holding my breath for a new album anytime soon but hey, who even needs one based on this performance.

Watching The Throne – The Rizzle Review

Jay-Z, Kanye West, Reviews

I won’t get caught up in the hype *repeats 3 times and sprinkles holy water*

When Watch The Throne was released back in August, everyone and their grandmother was going crazy for this meeting of two musical minds; Kanye West and Jay-Z. I’m a big fan of both of them and to be honest, my LP collection (yep, the Long Player still exists) had been looking pretty bare since the last album I bought, which was ironically Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

The hype surrounding this album was pretty immense. You had the initial mysterious tweets from Kanye about a 5 track EP “Watch the Thrown” (sic), then you had a first unofficial song (H.A.M – Hard As a Mother…., which wasn’t actually that hard), trailers and finally the release date. People went crazy when this album dropped and it actually managed to achieve the unthinkable – no major leaks. People were quick to label this as a classic, giving it 4 and 5 stars before they’d even really had a proper chance to listen to it. I’m not into the hype although from first listen, I could tell that it contained solid lyrics and impeccable beats.

One of the main criticisms of the album was that much of the content revolved around being rich and spending excessive amounts of money;

“I’m planking on a million” – Otis, 
Racks on racks on racks, Maybachs on backs on backs…” – Gotta Have


but there are moments of introspect sprinkled throughout the album. New Day, offers poignant thoughts from Jay-Z to his unborn child. Did he know about Beyonce’s publicity stunt pregnancy when writing this?

My personal favourite is perhaps the least “jiggy” of all songs – Murder to Excellence. From the beat to the delivery to the message, it’s almost as if Jay and Kanye are reporting news stories over the track.

“314 soldiers die in Iraq
509 died in Chicago”

Once the beat changes, they tell us what life can be like as an affluent black man in America;

“in the past if you picture events like a black tie
whats the last thing you expect to see? Black guys..
What’s the life expectancy for black guys?
The system’s working effectively – that’s why”

One thing that has struck me from repeated listens of this album over the past few months is the range of samples used in producing each song. The Godfather of Soul himself, Mr James Brown is used on multiple songs, as well as Otis Redding, Curtis Mayfield and Nina Simone. The album does feel like no expense was spared in getting each sample cleared. Although why, they claim ‘Otis’ is a duet with Otis Redding (Rest in Power) but don’t give James Brown his props in a similar way on ‘Gotta Have It’ confuses me…

Dubstep influences (UK stand up!) also appear in Niggas In Paris and Who Gon Stop Me, which are definitely a welcome addition and showcase the versatility in Kanye’s production.

The album isn’t without it’s misteps though. The cheesiness of Lift Off, lacks edge and could easily have been left off the album. “Welcome to the Jungle” whilst a head nodder, seemingly gets lost when placed with the more musically diverse sounds of the other tracks on the album. Bonus track “Illest Muth****er Alive” is probably the opposite – just sounds like a worse version of HAM (which, after I initially slated it, has grown on me #noMould).

So…the verdict after the hype has died down? WTT is definitely one of my favourite albums of the year. The beats carry on the elclectic sounds of Kanye’s MBDTF, while Jay-Z never fails to disappoint with his lyrics. Yes, the majority of the album is about ballin’ and doesn’t break new ground for either of them, but when they do it this well with such pinache, then who are we to complain. 2 months is a long time in this download obsessed world but the album still sounds just as good as when I first downloaded purchased it. Is is a classic? Nope. But it’s damn good.

The Rizzle Review – Dwele

Dwele, Reviews

A couple weeks ago (yes, I really need to step my blogging game up), my friend managed to get me tickets to see Dwele perform at the Jazz Cafe in Camden. While my friend is a big Dwele fan and has been since his first album, I am relatively new to his music. When Dwele first came to prominence back in 2003, I was on a 50 Cent hype and dismissed neo-soul as, ‘Coffee Shop Music’.

8 years later and I have put my foolish, somewhat misguided ways behind me (I mean, who really cares for Fiddy musically these days anyway) and I find myself at the aforementioned Jazz Cafe. The venue and the crowd were a lot more different than the concerts that I’ve been to before. Less screaming adolescents and more laid back grown folk, I definitely felt a more mature vibe in the air (and I’m not talking about incense sticks).

After a short introduction from the in-house team (no supporting artists necessary) we were into the show. Although this was the fourth show of his London setlist, you could be forgiven for thinking it was the first. The energy of both Dwele and the band were infectious and even if you are not familiar with all of his back catalogue (I could count on one hand the songs I knew – that would be five), it was very easy to be drawn in.

Dwele performed songs from his previous albums as well as sprinkling the set with some newer cuts from his latest album, Wants.World.Women, which I downloaded that day like a frantic student trying out some last minute revision, and had the crowd rocking from beginning to end.

Dwele has a lot more charisma than his records would allow you to think. Unlike many shows in larger venues that I have attended, he actually interacted with the crowd, perhaps due to the intimacy of the setting. I particularly enjoyed his chat-up lines (will be using some of those in the future) and the Nate Dogg tribute, the latter of which he seamlessly intertwined his hit ‘I Think I Love You’ into proceedings. It was definitely a worthy tribute.

Towards the end of the set, Dwele left the stage and joined the audience on the floor to sing ‘Dodgin Your Phone’ sending the ladies wild. He walked through the whole crowd and had the fans in a frenzy, frantically trying to capture the moment on their phones. Whether or not I was one of these people can neither be confirmed or denied.

                          Picture from: http://deorling.blogspot.com/2011/04/dwele-g-at-jazz-cafe.html

Overall, Dwele’s put on a great show for both the die-hard fans and the casual listeners like myself. It’s hard not to be swayed by the soothing neo-soul sounds and the charisma of the band. Above all, it was a really good, mature night out and if you love your live soul music this is definitely a must.