Gig Review – Lyrically Challenged 5th Birthday

{I also have an interview with one of the hosts and promoters of Lyrically Challenged coming on The Metropolist website, http://www.themetropolist.com/ however this is the gig review for the 5th Birthday Bash without the interview.}
Since moving back to London I had made it to catch the end of one of the monthly Lyrically Challenged Hip-Hop events. The vibe was nice and for that, and for a handful of other reasons I will explain in detail later I knew I had to reach the 5th Birthday special when they were to take over two floors of the venue Passing Clouds. So I went to “Lyrically Challenged, the 5th Birthday Bash”. It is not an exaggeration to say that personally it was like witnessing first-hand evidence of consciousness evolution. And a sick party. All rolled into one all encompassing experience. Allow me to give you some of my personal history with regards to rap clubs before I start the review in detail.
I used to go to Hip-Hop clubs in London in the late 90s and early 2000s, this was when Canibus and Eminem were Hip-Hop’s biggest influences, everyone wanted to be a battle rapper or a gangsta rapper. But I would rap about crystals and ayahuasca and just feel like the odd one out. My how times have changed.
Don’t get me wrong, even back then MCs like Chester P, Jehst and Roots Manuva had poetic lyrics and influenced the scene. But most of the rappers coming up were largely inspired by what was coming from the states and in the early 2000s the biggest album was Chronic 2001 and the biggest success was 50 Cent. With 50 Cent and Jay Z vying for ‘King of New York’ status it seemed like you had to be an ex-crack dealer to be considered a ‘real MC’. My how times have changed.
Then I discovered a poet called Paradox and the poetry scene in the London squat scene, here was a well-spoken black man talking about consciousness evolution, politics and spirituality to an audience that wanted to hear it. I just left the London rap scene behind for a while and focussed on performing poetry in squats like Unity Workds, Project 142 and St Georges Theatre. Then I moved to Bristol and focussed even more on poetry.
I was in Bristol for 10 years. Since I went away Lyrically Challenged started 5 years ago. I don’t know what it was like when it started but that 5th Birthday was like a dream come true for me. Hip-Hop culture expressing the evolution of consciousness; from Marv TheRadio doing a verse about Ayahuasca to hearing poetry at the start to seeing sacred Geometry like The Flower of Life and the Merkaba / Metatrons Cube spray painted on the decor – some of these things may seem superficial in isolation but together it created the atmosphere that something authentic and special was happening. Even the fact that it was hosted by two female MCs, MC Angel and Shay D, defied a stereotype about the culture. It was literally as if all my dreams for a consciousness evolution in the Hip-Hop community had come true while I wasn’t looking. So big up.
One of the reasons I went was because Passing Clouds has quickly become one of my favourite venues since I moved back to London, from Dub nights to art workshops, the atmosphere is always pleasant. Another one of the reasons I reached was because Mista Penfold of Itch Fm was playing and I hadn’t seen him or hung out with him since the early 2000s. He smashed it with the rare grooves and classics (the Michael Jackson medley was a highlight!) Another one of the reasons I reached was I knew my mate Felix Luke would be be there but I had no idea he was DJing (and MCing cos he’s multi-talented and multi-dimensional like dat!).
But headliners 47 Soul took everything to another level. After their own set of funk soul Hip-Hop with middle eastern sounds (that’s the best way I can only begin to describe them) they invited the MCs in the building to join them including Marv the Radio, Sonny Green, MC Angel, Shay D, and loads more including myself (I also got involved in the poetry open mic at the start and the Hip-Hop open cipher in the middle, plus joining Felix and the Truesounds Tribe upstairs for a jam – I must have been in a good mood.)
Also worth mentioning another highlight for me was Marv the Radio’s beatbox set, especially the Jungle tribute. He made us all rave with his mouth.
In short – that was the best Hip-Hop night I have been to in a very long time.

That was the 5th Birthday bash, so they took over two floors of Passing Clouds on a Saturday. Usually Lyrically Challenged is once a month on a Tuesday, upstairs in Passing Clouds, the space is smaller but that just means the performances are more intimate and the vibes are high. My advice? Reach.

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