Finally, after more than a quarter of a century of gig-going, I went to my first proper live hip hop concert. There’s been the odd jazz, blues, Japanese drummers, soul, country, folk and classical in amongst the vast swathes of indie/pop/rock gigs, but I don’t think I’ve ever been to see rap music before – if we forget something like Mr C in The Shamen, that is. And I think we probably should. I’m far from a hip hop expert but I have a fair smattering in my collection, both the ‘daisy age’ types stuff like the JBs and De La Soul, but also the gangsta rap of Ice-T, Ice Cube and Snoop Doggy Dogg, old school Grandmaster Flash and the odd other album here and there.
I got to the Kaz shortly after doors opened and it was immediately clear without crossing the threshold proper that there was basically no-one inside yet. The JB’s were due on at 9.45pm with a DJ as support act, so I took the no-brainer option of heading to the Roscoe Head for a couple of pints. Fortunately the pub was quiet as if the number of customers hits double figures it soon starts to fill up.
I headed down to the Kazimier at about 9pm to catch some of the DJ. The sense of my decision to hit the pub was reinforced by the fact that the only ale on tap (from the excellent Liverpool Organic) wasn’t on as they’d sold it all! That meant settling for a bottle of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. The place was still practically empty for the DJ’s funky, dancy music. No-one hit the floor but plenty of toes were being tapped.
Jungle Brothers recently reformed the original trio, with rappers Mike G and Afrika Baby Bam re-joined by DJ Sammy B who originally quit back in 1997. So they lived up to the lyric in their eponymous track from “Raw Deluxe”, their last album as the original threesome, “Like Earth Wind & Fire, never will retire”.
Afrika Baby Bam (not such a baby any more, with his short, greying hair) strikes me as the quiet genius of the band – both he and Sammy B were in JB’s tour t-shirts, which were entrepeneurily being sold by someone from the stage as soon as their set finished. Mike G, however, was in a ‘hands up, don’t shoot’ t-shirt.
They put on a fine show, bouncing with energy as the fairly sparse but very enthusiastic crowd got energised. One punter presented each of the three of them with a shot, which they gratefully accepted. He then got rather carried away with trying to offer them more drinks, but they happily posed for a photo with him while still rapping on stage. The set really took off for me with “Jungle Brother”, not a track I previously knew, but it and others benefited from the catchy “the jungle, the jungle, the brothers, the brothers” refrain, repeated often.
They rolled out their most famous number, a hyperactive version of “I’ll House You”, mid-set, with the dance-floor filled with audience members eagerly dancing. There was plenty of audience participation, which regular readers of this blog (really?) will know I normally have a thing against, but to be fair it fits in well with a hip hop show. It probably fits in well with many other types of show too, but its extraversion just doesn’t sit right with this indie-kid-at-heart.
The gig ended with “Jimbrowski” off their debut “Straight Out The Jungle” album from 1988, a song about the male member, followed by another tune I didn’t recognise. I’d really enjoyed my first venture into hip hop live, with myself and most of the crowd dancing merrily away. They played a few off the first two albums, the only ones I know, but new and old all sat happily together. Perhaps snapping up their 2005 compilation “This Is…” might be a good plan.
It was a pretty much impossible task for me to select a relevant t-shirt for this one, so I ended up in my green Vertigo shirt, for no particularly good reason. As usual, other band t-shirts were very thin on the ground, although full marks to the man in the De La Soul one for appropriateness.