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Rodney P - The Future Launch Night @ Neighbourhood
Rodney P - The Future Launch Party @ Neighbourhood
I was lucky enough to get down to the launch night for Rodney P's seminal UK Hip Hop release last month. The venue was Neighbourhood in Ladbroke Grove, West London, a small club which used to be known as Subterrania and as such has gained quite a reputation for great gigs over the years. One of the best gigs I ever went to was Masta Ace at the same venue around '94. This was a little different, the venue was full ish, but no where near rammed, but this made for a relaxed party type atmosphere. Much of the warm up DJ was cheesy R'n'B and I wasn't really feeling that, but there was a dope animated backdrop to the stage which kept drawing my attention with snippets of Low Life videos and Riddim Killa cartoons by Mao Mao. The venue has good sound and was set up tonight for a live broadcast on 1Xtra, perhaps the reason for the cheesy music to begin with. Rodney could be seen milling about the stage in his body warmer and all the instruments and other gear was already tantalisingly set up. I was just hanging out for the live acts and I wouldn't have to wait long.

Local and old time favourite Pesci was first to take to the knee high stage with Rodney introducing and bigging him up. Not someone whose name I have checked out before, but he had some skills at one point dropping accapella to make sure that everyone was capturing the depth of his lyrics. It was at this point the only unfortunate thing to happen all night took place. There was a group of pissed students dancing in a wierd way at the front of the stage, Pesci noticed them and started mentioning them in his lyrics. Then Rodney P came out and asked them to step back from the stage. The later story being that they were knocking the mic stand, but really it was just Rodney being arsey about his night and not wanting weird white people at the front. This didn't go down too well with me because even if they were drunken dickheads you can't diss your fans. This initial aggro and pushing finished off with some huge guy bouncing all three of the supposed miscreants to the back of the venue on his own and from my viewpoint it looked quite comedic! One was later seen apologising and explaining the situation, but it was all entirely unnecessary and put a downer on the proceedings for a moment.

Next up was Mr 45 who I was really looking forwards to seeing as I had heard tracks from him with a great deal of vibrancy and energy. I found his performance extremely disappointing. He is a huge guy rippling with muscles, but his voice was kinda small and didn't fit the image I was presented with. Additional to this I don't know whether he was suffering stage fright or what, but he hardly moved and had very little stage presence. He and his back up man reminded us it was Mr 45 who brought us the 'Ya Get Meh' phrase and went on to tell us about 'Redbacks' - 50 notes and how if you are going to bling this is what you need. He then asked everyone to hold up their credit cards in that air and nobody did, probably fearing they would have them snatched.

Sway Dafaso stepped up for some of his quick fire rhyming and his upbeat style and delivery had everyone bumping. I think Sway has been practising and although I wasn't fully behind the cheesiness of his beats I was feeling his delivery and they way he got everyone involved, even doing a call and response with the audience to get the sound man to fix up the sound. Sometimes uncalled for, on this occasion it unfortunately was with one mic, not performer, being substantially louder than the other.

Knowing that Rodney was about to take to the stage a whole load of people with cameras and video recorders bundled to the front to make sure that they got good shots. It could just be a London thing, but I don't believe that all these people were from the press, or if they were it was a bit over the top. I didn't know what a full live band would constitute, but it seems that in Rodney's case it was a singer, a double bassist, a drummer, a trumpet and a guy filling in the rest on a computer sequencer. One by one they took to the stage and readied themselves, the drummer getting out about 20 pairs of drumsticks, possibly in anticipation of breaking some and the double bassist laying out the written music in front of himself and for me that was a first at a Hip Hop gig! I have to say that the addition of a band to a Hip Hop performance does indeed add an extra dynamic and make for a more engaging and spontaneous performance. Rodney obviously ran through several of the tracks off his new The Future LP and enlisted the help of Mystro who stepped up to perform the live banger I Don't Care (Time To Party) and later on in the set MCD who was there to lend his voice to Big Tings Again.
 
Rodney P & Mystro Rodney P & Band Rodney P in the crowd

With SkinnyMan to be seen in the crowd, even getting noticed by Rodney as he took one of his wanders into the audience, as well as Mr 45 having performed earlier, I was hoping for them to step up and perform Worldwide, but unfortunately it didn't happen, I guess because Rodney wanted to focus on his new material. Never the less Rodney must have performed most of his new LP and I wasn't left feeling short changed. He is a professional and held up his end without breaking stride at all. The Drummer really impressed me, with only the singer being a bit less strong than she could have been.

Overall it was a good night where the drinks were steadily coming and the majority of the acts performed well. As ever the whole organisation of the night could have been a bit smoother and professional. I don't like it when people walk from the backstage room across the stage and into the crowd, and this happened repeatedly. Additionally it is possible that Rodney P and his band could have been a bit more rehearsed, but the addition of the Jungle Drummer to the band made sure the beats were heavy and tight all night. Rodney's new tracks sound great performed live and I imagine nights further on in the tour will be more polished and really tear roofs down.

Related links:

Riddim Killa Discography :: Rodney P Discography
http://www.lowliferecords.co.uk :: http://www.rodneyp.com :: http://www.bbc.co.uk/1xtra
 

Intro Early Doors:
1979-1985
False Dawn:
1985-1990
Underground Years:
1990-1995
The Renaissance:
1995- 2000
The Future:
2000 & Beyond
Artists &
Discographies

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