Down in the basement at Hyde Park Book Club, an excitable (and very fashionably dressed) crowd was gathering for the show that night- Barney Artist, the East London modern hip hop master. The support act Kinkai was a delight, full of frenetic energy that poured out into several impressive freestyle raps. He also performed his 2019 single ‘Plantain & Champagne’, a slower and groovier song in which his talent for rhyming was more apparent.
When the man of the night, Barney Artist himself, finally took to the stage he appeared overwhelmed at the turnout – “There’s a lot of you”, he exclaimed, seemingly delighted that so many of his fans had turned up. It was a charmingly bare-bones setup: accompanied by only his DJ and a solitary bass guitar, yet the music from the three figures onstage filled the room. Performing a new mix of his track ‘Something True’, with a little more soul vibes, his rapping was flawless and unique – his delivery of each line measured and thoughtful. He told us he wanted to ‘bring raw hip hop back to Leeds’, and it seemed to be true; the simple drum beats of each track shook the room, with the bass player riffing out Tom Misch’s signature production sounds.
Barney was incredibly interactive with his audience- constantly chattering away, his set featured little personal touches that made it feel like he was a goofy friend onstage, not an out-of-reach idol. He even brought a fan onstage for a ’30 second birthday’, which the crowd obliged, and he seemed genuinely delighted with the reception his audience gave, endearingly so. Artist was more than happy to deliver his signature tracks – his direct and deep rapping over the soft croon of ‘Lullaby’ from his third album Home is Where the Art Is, and the instant crowd pleaser of his Tom Misch, Loyle Carner and Rebel Kleff collab track ‘Good To Be Home’.
The crowd wouldn’t take no for an answer when it came to an encore – Artist rushed back onstage to perform the absolute banger of a track that is ‘Calm Down’, exuberantly joyful in every line he rapped- the crowd and he danced together to this last upbeat track.
All photos by Kelsey Raynor.