Rated Roundup: One Acen, Lil Pump & Kojey Radical

We bring you the weeks live highlights in London.

Only in London can you truly appreciate the spoilt-for-choice pickings we get to relish when it comes to the live music calendar. Closing out the year it’s been hard to keep up with all the invites, but choose we had to and so we headed out to three headline gigs last week in London to see if they lived up to the hype.

For One Acen, 2018 will forever be etched in his memory as the year he truly broke through. The London based artist has been on a mazy run this year with melody driven contributions to tracks such as frequent collaborator Hardy Caprio’s ‘Best Life’, their fun party track ‘EIO’ and “Vice Versa”, which features WSTRN and has a case to state as one of the UK songs/collaborations of the year. One Acen can comfortably express his personality on wax whether he’s rapping or crooning, and this is evidenced by his displays on his latest EP titled ‘SexyOddRose’. To hear that he was due to rock the stage at Electric Ballroom no less than three weeks after his EP release showed character and an eagerness to mark his success of this year. The question remained could he deliver a headline show that matched his promise as an artist?

Despite some initial technical difficulties that were beyond his control, One Acen gave the crowd their money’s worth. From the offset, he seemed at ease on stage and ready to bring the party vibes to the packed crowd. After performing 2017’s ‘Rolling’ to great cheer, he wasted no time in bringing out some special guests to mark the occasion. The familiar tandem of Young T & Bugsey hopped on stage to ‘Ay Caramba’ (Stay Flee Get Lizzy) and quickly followed this with ‘Gangland’, continuing to get into the swing of things with more surprise guests in the form of Shakka and Tion Wayne.

The SexyOddRose Show truly started for me when One Acen performed ‘NewwMachine’, it was at this point when the show felt less like a rave and more like a showcase of who One Acen is as an artist. His confidence shot up and he was parading around the stage like he truly owned it. Seeing him perform his old material highlighted the growth he has undertaken over the years – plus it didn’t hurt to hear his DJ RBC mix ‘Psychic’ with Snoop Dogg’s classic “Let’s Get Blown”.

Following another cameo appearance in the form of Ramz – who briefly took the focus away with an uninspiring performance of ‘Barking’ and ‘Family Tree’ – One Acen continued with a confident showing during the performance of ‘Verified’. Followed by unfortunate news that his good friend Hardy Caprio wouldn’t show, it was all quickly rubbished as soon as his cohort suddenly appeared on stage after the drop, a move which had the crowd wild as the duo performed ‘Unsigned’. Watching them play Mario Kart on stage underlined their bromance right before they got into their summer banger ‘EIO’.

‘Gucci Chanel’ the latest single from ‘SexyOddRose’ harked at One Acen’s ability to borrow elements from other genres (in this instance garage) and tweak them to his taste, he had the crowd in his palm as he softly crooned about buying some new designer. As if there wasn’t enough to be awed by, WSTRN then came out and performed ‘Ben Ova’ a clear highlight from their ‘DOUBL3 3AK’ mixtape which was quickly followed by ‘Vice Versa’, the R&B influenced highlight of Acen’s EP. Performing ‘Best Life’ with Hardy Caprio against the backdrop of CallMeTheKidd and Tion Wayne as they sprayed the crowd with their water guns, the show finally came to a close. While at times the gig may not have entirely felt like the rave it could’ve been, make no mistake, One Acen had packed out the venue for his first show, marking the moment that would be remembered as the start of much more to come from the rising star.

Rated by Samuel Adegunle

Lil Pump In Brixton

It was the last date of Miami rapper Gazzy Garica’s UK tour (better known as Lil Pump) and roars of ‘Esketit!’ could be heard all the way down the queue at o2 Academy Brixton. For a show on a Tuesday night, where the majority of the crowd was probably going to school the next day, it was a later start that planned for Lil Pump. Finally deciding to grace the stage at 10pm, Pump bounced right into it with the ironic single, ‘D Rose’. As the current frontrunner of the so-called ‘SoundCloud rap’ scene, the 18-year-old has certainly lived up to the expected hype with his reflections on clout life , girls, drugs, money and designer clothes.

“WHO HERE IS A DRUG ADDICT?” Pump asked, introducing the lo-fi beat driven track, ‘Drug Addicts’ as the topless teen-filled crowd in the Arena got buzzed off a topless Pump.  Clearly trying to live up to the ‘fronting life’, it all appeared a little too heavy for him, as he ran through song after song, while pieces of his many gold chains were removed so he could keep up pace across the large stage.

Despite immersing himself into the crowd several times through the show, the young rapper took one final plummet into the “wild moshpit”, shouting “BACK THE FUCK UP, I’M NOT GONNA PLAY THIS SONG UNTIL YOU BACK THE FUCK UP!”. Closing off his performance with the heartfelt ‘I’m Sippin Tea in Your Hood’ in tribute to XXXTentacion, and his somewhat strange collaboration with Kanye West, ‘I Love it’ – by the end there was no dispute that Lil Pump’s music was built for the live-action, high-energy, graphically-visual effects of a live show, and his fans certainly loved it too.

Rated by Isha Shah

Kojey’s KOKO show was the tour-ending delight London deserved!

If ever there were a musical journey worth watching, Kojey Radical’s would be right up there. Trust me on that. I mean, he’s something else isn’t he? From having interwoven spoken word into his musical approach when grime was all the rage, to jumping into grime’s very, very deep end to demonstrate his range — he’s been a locus of pure, unadulterated talent every single step of the way. Quite frankly, his hasn’t been your ‘typical ascent.’

Yet here he is, having toured internationally with a sound uniquely his own, whilst demonstrating gifts beyond his preferred poetry. So it’s safe to say all dues have been paid. And from the looks of things? He’s fully focused on having fun now, quite rightly having decided, in his own words, he has “Nothing left to prove…’

For many, last Tuesday night was the culmination of all our hopes for the Hoxton born poet-turned-rapper with a flair for theatrics. Fans, both new and old, watched him captivate the crowd, blowing the roof off Camden’s prestigious KOKO with varied renditions of his best work. So I doubt a single soul could’ve stepped away claiming it wasn’t absolutely nuts.

And while the room might’ve bristled quietly to begin with, ears perked as Kojey wove his way through early works like ‘Bambu’, and things livened up fairly fast. In fact, it’d have been tougher to name the tracks that didn’t go off than those that did. Though, if pressed? I’d say his performances of ‘Windows’, ‘No Photos’, ‘Pure’ and the many, many runs of ’97’ did the damn job. Indeed, I dare anyone to say differently. 

Proving once and for all his ‘Ye’ is just different, Kojey kept a slew of surprises tucked, evidenced clearly by the beautiful Shola Ama joining him for ‘Icarus’, Etta Bond jumping onstage for a brief medley of both ‘Forgiveness’ and ‘Preacher Preacher’, and of course, Ghett’s ‘No Photo’s’ verse, which was a total circus. 

As if we weren’t riled up enough, Kojey took moments throughout the show to address the crowd. Once in memory of the dearly departed Harry Uzoka, before a heartfelt rendering of ‘Afraid Of.’ A few more times whist lining up the next singalong – one of which being the exceptionally delicious ‘Water’, though sadly without Mahalia. And just once more, to remind us that all of his features ‘till now have been flames, at which point Wretch 32 rocked up to perform ‘Colour Purple.’ To think a good third of the brilliance performed were singles… songs on which the East Londoner had only featured, yet the crowd knew the words. 

All now, whilst Kojey has been known to take the road less travelled, it’d be difficult to attribute his success to anything other than his own particular pedigree. Easy as it would’ve been to have ended things when ‘Bambu’ had been rejected by the many popular blogs at the time, here he is, coming off the back of a sold out tour and a triumphant close to his ‘Can I Speak?’ tour. Where will he go next? Well, there’s no telling, both style-wise or in literal terms. Though one thing is for sure. “Kojey goes where Kojey wants.” And Now? Now he goes with our blessing. 

Rated by Hakeem Demi