The Godfather, King, veteran — Wiley’s musical appellations are deeply ingrained in the UK grime scene, but it was uncertain whether his Manchester performance was going to live up to his reputation.
To kick off the sold-out event, Wiley picked ‘child-of-grime’ artist, Stormzy – and he couldn’t have chosen anyone better. The Croydon new boy performed tracks off his EP, Dreamers Disease.
The bullish bars in Where Do You Know Me From – which was pulled three times – secured instant love from his Snapchat prepped fans.
While the only unsigned rapper to perform on Later With Jools Holland, Stormzy bagged himself a MOBO and came third in BBC Radio 1’s Sound of 2015 list, making his arrival onto the grime scene one of the most prolific at a time when the genre’s credibility is under scrutiny.
It took a while for Wiley to arrive, as despite the ‘Not That Deep’ MC having the audience amped for Wiley’s appearance, the crowd’s eagerness turned into apprehension when there was no sign of the Bow E3 lyricist 45 minutes into the show.
In classic Eskiboy style however, Wiley took to the stage donned in a grey tack suit and black goggle jacket, giving obligatory shout outs to Boy Better Know members Skepta, JME, Jammer, Solo 45 and Shorty, sending the crowd into a clamour.
After releasing his ninth album, The Ascent (2013) – boasting chart-topping pop infused hits Can You Hear Me, Heatwave, Lights On and Reload – Wiley made it known that his latest LP, Snakes and Ladders, was going to feature more grime tracks.
There were numerous moments during the gig where the audience, mostly made up of teens dressed to attend the Kandi Beach Party, were given the opportunity to revel in the MC’s formative sounds. But they didn’t seem to take full advantage.
Showcasing tracks like Badman, From the Outside off, and the Skepta-produced On A Level from his latest LP Snakes and Ladders, you would have thought that the baseline heavy numbers would send the crowds into a classic Eskimo dance frenzy.
Apart from the half-hearted mosh pit spurred on by Tempa T’s Next Hype, BBK’s Too Many Man and Solo 45’s new track Feed ‘Em to the Lions, the audience never immersed themselves fully into underground atmosphere.
Anyone who follows Wiley on Twitter will know that the showman is partial to controversy and likes to have his say on the latest industry gossip.
Half way through his set, the former Roll Deep crew member quizzed fans on their thoughts of the latest ‘Fire In The Booth’ spat between rappers Chip (formerly known as Chipmunk) and Tinie Tempah – with many favouring Chip’s bold reasoning.
Conversations aside, Wiley conducted a spontaneous MC clash where novice rappers he picked from the crowd used the stage as a platform to showcase their slickest 16 bars.
Though the clash was far from seamless, it did add some much-needed authenticity to the set up.
Driven off the stage by the Gorilla’s strict curfew, it was obvious there was only one song that would end the night on a pop high — Heatwave.
The pioneering MC’s number one hit sent fans into overdrive with its vivid Ayia Napa flavour and summertime lyrics.
Ultimately, as the Godfather of Grime, there is a certified expectation that Wiley would bring a certain level of hype to a gig – but unfortunately this weekend show at Gorilla fell flat.
The majority of the setlist was grime in its finest form, but that leads to the question on whether the young, fresh-faced, electronic-dance-music fans the genre has attracted, reflect where the scene has evolved, or to some, regressed.
Image courtesy of BigaDada via YouTube, with thanks.