The Garage, London
Decked out in a yellow Supreme tracksuit, hip-hop’s alienating newcomer Lil Yachty bounds on to the stage. Arriving for a debut sold out London show (which counted Skepta and Frank Ocean as attendees) while Broccoli, a chart-climbing single with D.R.A.M still reverberates around America, the air of anticipation is palpable.
Immediately, his voice is lost amidst the uncontrollable crowd during the outrageously bass-heavy airing of Ice Water. But the song is unmistakably Yachty – a cacophony of ice-cream truck sounds and starry-eyed melodies housing lyrics about young affluence and the perks of being the hottest rapper in the world.
There’s really no understating quite how quickly things have happened for Yachty (this show was sold out before he even had proper label representation in Europe). Like many of these first appearances from fast-rising internet sensations, there’s a shambolic element to proceedings. There’s bedlam on stage as Yachty’s red beaded dreads bounce mobbing out with his friend and lead producer Burberry Perry. Wanna Be Us appears to shatter the PA system and Minnesota, a standout track from Yachty’s Lil Boat tape, misses the childish innocence which it carries on record. He’s upping the ante for the live show, swapping the subtleties of his sound for more conventional rap star behaviour – crowd surfing, water spraying and turning up. In some ways it’s a shame, lots of Yachty’s appeal comes from his otherness. In reality though, when One Night rings out across the room, it’s impossible not to jump into the party.
Having fully exited the stage and with the half the crowd gone, Yachty creeps back on and introduces Skepta, who performs a couple of nanoseconds of Shutdown before announcing “December 2nd” (the date of his sold out, gargantuan Ally Pally show) and dropping the mic. Skepta has long been a high-profile London ambassador of new waves of US hip-hop, and new waves rarely arrive with as much momentum as this. The debate surrounding him doesn’t look like it’s going to die down anytime soon. Agitator, luminary, chancer, blagger. He’s all of them, IRL.