I can’t remember when I first started to cultivate an interest in hip-hop; it has been a steady progression through my teens,however, I can remember when I was about 9 years old and my brother turned on a music channel which was playing Jay Z’s ‘Hard Knock Life’. I was instantly taken with the melody of the child’s voice, which Jay sampled from the film ‘Annie’, of course. I have much respect for him as he’s an artist who has maintained a strong degree of relevancy in hip-hop, while many emcees fizzle out. I saw Jay Z perform on tour two years ago and he is someone who is incredible to watch – especially when he freestyles. I am also a huge fan of Kanye West’s music, I think he is phenomenal and I enjoy his sartorial choices, so I eagerly anticipated a tour ever since they put out their joint album ‘Watch The Throne’.
The show at the LG Arena in Birmingham, was a good mix of old and new songs, with both rappers simultaneously occupying the arena on either sides. Kanye West is definitely a ‘performer’ and puts on a great spectacle to watch; whether he is dancing or fully immersed in the train of thought he is singing about. Jay Z on the other hand effuses charm and charisma when he engages with his crowd, with his New York lilt winning over a crowd who could only wish for better vocals within their monotone Midlands accents. Jay Z’s fans dedicate themselves to the ‘ROC’ movement as if it were a religion and all it takes, is for him to throw up a shape in the form of a diamond with his hands, for the whole arena to follow suit and mirror him as he dances on stage. Everyone is briefly united in their awe of a successful man stood before them. I especially enjoyed the fluidity of ‘Big Pimpin‘ which preceded ‘Goldigger‘ and then went into ‘99 Problems‘, the crowd roared for them.
I also feel that Kanye West has paved the way for rap artists to shed the oversized ‘basketball’ gear we were so used to seeing and to embrace the choice and freedom of fashion. Never has rap music and luxury fashion been so intertwined; rap songs have name checked designers such as Isaac Mizrahi, Celine, Burberry and designers such Phoebe Philo. One of Kanye’s stage outfits included a wonderful black embellished top, which featured heavy black stones along the neckline as well as plenty of leather in the form of trousers and a long over coat. It was a great show, I had an incredible view, and it’s so surreal to see people you really admire, so up close.