Why Manchester is the new creative epicentre of neo-soul and hip-hop
Last week, Spotify sold out their first ever UK event, a live in the flesh spin from their zeitgeist capturing playlist of the same name, Who We Be, at North London’s Alexandra Palace – a venue perched at the top of one of the city’s highest peaks, somewhat reflective of the levels that some of the artists on the line-up reached this year. The show was a momentous success for the streaming platform’s first foray into live events, and Spotify’s enviable line up starred the crème de la crème of UK rap and grime, including Dizzee Rascal, Bugzy Malone, Stefflon Don and more.
Surprise appearances on the night also came from Croydon’s hottest new talents; Hardy Caprio and Big Shaq – the viral brainchild of comedian Michael Dapaah. ‘Mans Not Hot’ needed to introduction since his Fire in the Booth freestyle went viral earlier in the year, and it’s been inescapable. Of course, the audience of 10,000 fans knew every single bar. With Ally Pally packed out, the atmosphere was festival like, with everyone dancing, jumping and sweating away – it was enough to make you forget about the arctic chill that was brewing outside.
J Hus was another crowd warmer; his set stood out as one of the strongest as he sparked a sing along to his ‘Best Song’ MOBO Award-winning ‘Did You See’ and got things hot with the mosh pit instigating ‘Clartin’, from his debut album, Common Sense. The frenzy heightened when he went into pre-Common Sense hits like debut smash 'Dem Boy Paigon', with the instrumental’s claps and bass ricocheting off the walls of the venue like bullet casings.
The energy continued once Giggs hit the stage to perform ‘KMT’ featuring Drake and ‘Whippin Excursion’. Hollowman was also joined by South London road rap icon Sneakbo for their collaboration ‘Active’, however the audience were sadly robbed of a performance of cult classic and alternative national anthem ‘Talking the Hardest’, which some fans could be heard screaming the lyrics to as Giggs came to the end of his set.
The real showstopper was queen of the Bronx, Cardi B, who provided the night’s biggest highlight when she performed ‘Lick’, G-Eazy cut 'No Limit' with A$AP Rocky and, of course, her international, chart-topping ‘Bodak Yellow’. Cardi worked and twerked for the crowd, inspiring screams and cheers as she sauntered off the stage in a dazzling blue and white corset dress and thigh high leather boots, with the whole of Alexandra Palace chanting her name.
Circling back to the playlist that gave the event it’s name, it’s easy to say the curated list of artists who graced the stage that night gave us the set of songs that provide a snapshot of the UK’s current urban soundscape and identity. Through viral factors like 'Man's Not Hot', the cultural impact and inspiration that enabled Giggs' ascent to the top or empowerment anthems from friends across the pond like 'Bodak Yellow', this is exactly Who We Be.