The Bridge UK Hip-Hop Festival Review
As a scene, North East hip-hop is entrenched in a mentality of ‘real hip-hop.’ Each individual involved in regional rap circuit has a different ideal of what the scene should represent, and what style of rap music should be pushed to the forefront. The Bridge UK hip-hop festival offered something for everybody.
I wasn’t able to attend any of the workshops or panel discussions, but each of them were appealing. I’m seriously kicking myself for missing out on Nick Light’s documentary screening ‘We’re Alone Up Here.’ Instead I focused upon the music, the local showcase of rappers from the region starting with New North East.
Many questioned the placement of Sunderland collective, New North East as the openers for the homegrown stage. If it was a tactic to ensure there was a crowd from the beginning, I get it. There aren’t many acts with the pull of NNE, that would have guaranteed me being there for the full four hours.
Their set was as energetic as ever. Their energy on stage is always a constant throughout their shows. With Beezy and Ill Mitchell missing, 90Bro, Reali-T, Listaa, Raza, Tuckage & Drew Rich rattled through some of their biggest releases, and some unreleased records on their way.
I’m particularly looking forward to posse-cut ‘Headline’ which is expected for release when Beezy finishes exams and finally drops ‘OG.’ I have to hold myself back from ad-lbbing ‘front row’ every time the chorus bangs out “Where were you when we headlined?”
Always wanting to up the ante, the highlight of the NNE set came when Listaa jumped off the stage. As the rest of the Sunderland collective quipped ‘fruitellas a bad man sweet’, the ‘PiSC3S’ rapper threw fruitellas in the crowd. If New North East weren’t the most exciting emerging act from the North East before The Bridge event, they cemented themselves as such with this performance.
Wardle was next up on the homegrown stage. An artist I knew of, and had heard a few released from but wasn’t completely familiar with. During his short-but-sweet set the Grime MC impressed, before inviting New North East’s 90Bro back on stage to perform their ‘Tyne & Wear’ collaboration. As far as MCs who are under acknowledged and underrated within the North East scene, including from myself, Wardle is up there with the best of them.
What followed was a big surprise. Prior to The Bridge, I knew there were some MCs as young as 15 and 16 on the come-up. Benwell’s Mega Boys were even younger. I’m not sure exactly how old the five-piece were but a Facebook search tells me between 8-11 years old. An impressive feat. Were they lyrical miracles? No, but there’s a definitive potential to build upon. Being on stage alongside DJ ADS, and on a bill with Smooth Jezza, H-Man and Just B before being teenagers puts them in good stead for the future.
After a short break which involved H-Man and Tiz putting themselves in a break dancing showcase, the homegrown stage was reopened by Ken Masters and the Battalions Cru. Having just impressed on the floor, the three Battalions Cru representatives impressed on the mic too. I’m always happy to be introduced to talented artists from the region, especially when they’ve represented across Europe and proven internationally that the North East is a hotbed for emerging rappers.
As far as new artists making waves in the North East go, few are as exciting or talented as AnthNE. Opening up the Chat Trust showcase on the homegrown stage, AnthNE performed just one track, which he also performed at Hash Rotten Hippo’s first ObScene open mic event at Arch Sixteen.
A few more artists from Chat Trust performed before Gypsy Lipstick lit the room up. There’s an unfortunate natural judgement when it comes to young women taking to a mic, but their performance outweighed a few of their male counterparts and some of the older heads could learn a thing too.
(Sidenote: Whether we include NNE / Chat Trust or not, who has more collaborations with other artists: 90Bro or Rex Regis?)
Following a string of younger acts, Rex Regis took to the stage. The veteran rapper performed a series of singles from his forthcoming album, ‘The Third.’ Whilst Kay Greyson was double booked with the Women in Hip-Hop talk, 90Bro went awol, Max Gavins joined Rex for their ‘Faith Restored’ collaboration ‘I’m Mint.’
Zombie Killers were the penultimate act of the mini Chat Trust takeover and with good reason. Their performance kept the crowd entertained throughout, even if I could have done with a couple less imitations of Fekky’s bu bu bang adlib. Would love to hear some of their studio recordings for when TheRootMusic returns to Spark on the 29th May.
Kay Greyson, fresh from her panel discussion on Women in Hip-Hop, rounded off the Chat Trust artists on the homegrown stage. It was arguably the best performance from a North East artist. Kay’s development in twelve months since the 2016 Evolution Emerging festival is unprecedented. She has truly established herself as one of the best performers in North East local music of any genre.
It was interesting to see H-Man and Just B perform as individuals and as HB. For me, H-Man stole the entire event. ‘Too Dodgy’ has the potential to be my favourite song of 2017. The drop on the hook reminiscent of Azealia Banks is still ringing out in my head now, 24 hours later. For all H-Man has publicly dealt with his mental health on Facebook, he proved at The Bridge that its not getting in the way of creating incredible music.
Just B on the other hand is Just B. Its no surprise anymore of how good he is. It was incredible to see him perform ‘Vinnie Jones’ and other ‘Lyrics From The Villas’ hits for the first time. I would have liked to hear something from LFTV 3 though…
Headlining the home grown stage, Smooth Jezza premiered some of his new music. With the unfortunate absence of Double U, we weren’t treat to ‘Messi’ but the songs coming on ‘For The Fans pt. 3’ are sounding very good. Could a second consecutive UBeat award for Hip-Hop Artist of the Year be on the cards?
After a break quizzing Reali-T about a podcast appearance, catching up with Hash Rotten Hippo about the last ObScene event and demolishing four sausage rolls the evening event rolled around. Some people questioned the £14.20 for the festival but for me, it was worth it even for the parts that were free. So much so that I didn’t bother collecting my press pass and paid for the evening event anyway.
The night kicked off with DJ ADS spinning on the 1s and 2s before Ken Masters took the stage. Being a little underversed in the legendary North East hip-hop veteran’s music, my highlight came as he performed latest single ‘One’ alongside two local B-Boys. The performance only served to remind me that I really need to catch myself up on Ken’s music.
Keeping us in with the local acts on the main stage, Kema Kay changed the mood and tempo up a bit. Switching from a more traditional form of hip-hop to mixing things up with more brash tempos and grime flows. Kema truly put on a show, including his immense remix of Stormzy’s ‘Big For Your Boots’ that cemented his spot as being one of the most accessible artists from the North East.
Splitting up the local music takeover of the main stage, Holly Flo Lightly delivered her unique brand of hip-hop. Juggling singing with rap over jazz infused instrumentation, Holly impressed on my first introduction to her. The highlight of her set came as she welcomed local lad AnthNE on stage to perform a song they have collaborated on together. Giving he’s just 16 and has only been rapping for a year, joining the mainstage of a UK hip-hop festival is a massive deal and thoroughly deserved based on his talent.
Bringing it back to North East acts Ill Prepared duo Gilly Man Giro and King Hippo came out. Promising Gilly’s new album to drop in the coming months whilst reeling out anthems like ‘Fuck A Job’ and ‘Where The Heads At?’ Gilly promoted support slots he’s got coming for the likes of Pharcyde and Pharoahe Monch, and whilst not necessarily fans of the headliners I’m definitely tempted to pay just to see Gilly again.
Joining Gilly Man at the end of his set, Rick Fury came out to probably the loudest ovation of the night. The North East naturally has a massive love for the South Shields legend. Unanimously considered the greatest rap artist from the region, Rick proved his skill set during a regrettably cut-short set. Premiering new music from the highly anticipated ‘Lego Scarface’ album, Rick was back to his best.
While a number of promotion posts around The Bridge indicated the release of ‘Lego Scarface’, it wasn’t to be. Catching up with Rick after his set, the South Shields spitter said it should be done within the next month. Fingers crossed because whilst I was excited for the album before The Bridge, Rick’s performance set the anticipation into overdrive. A number of people remarked after the set that he was unbelievably good.
The penultimate act of my night, Paigey Cakey smashed her set. She was very different to Rick Fury and Gilly Man Giro but it was a good different. Given the attachment local heads have to Rick and Gilly, a similar sounding artist might have fallen flat. Paigey’s high energy and use of audience participation assured that whilst the crowd didn’t seem overly familiar with catalogue, they were digging it all the same. I need to relive ‘Boogie’ performed live at least once more in my lifetime.
Closing my night, Genesis Elijah gave perhaps the best performance I’ve ever seen. Having quickly gone for a drink, when I came back into the room, Gen was screaming to the crowd about how he’d travelled so far and the dwellers at the back wouldn’t travel a few steps forward. As he started performing tracks such as ‘Wasteman’ and ‘Soundclash’ it was obvious he was able to keep the crowd in the palm of his hand. At the end of his set he performed a particularly powerful song ‘I See You’ which features vocals from Bobbie Johnson. Unfortunately it’s not available anywhere online currently, but he has promised to send it my way – so if he does, I’ll be playing it when TheRootMusic returns to Spark on May 29th.
The crowd weren’t happy at the prospect of Genesis leaving the stage. Chants on one more consequented in the MC getting into the crowd and walking around the room shaking just about everyone’s hands. It was a particularly touching moment that was a genuine pleasure to experience.
I’m feeling a sense of regret missing out on Blade and the entire nighttime club event at Kommunity. From what I was able to see The Bridge was an overwhelming success. There wasn’t a single performance that I felt let down by, I simply wanted more. Judging by the social media posts from the team behind the festival, we’re getting a follow up next year. I’m already get excited for The Bridge 2.