Donning full trackies or repping their favorite EPL squad, smoking blunts and passing bottles of Red Dot Ciroc and Henny, the mass of fans in front of the Fonda Theatre was impatiently waiting for Skepta, a British Grime rapper who is selling out shows all across North America on his Banned from America tour.
After being denied a U.S. work visa in 2016, Skepta had to cancel his No Fear tour, which included a show at the Coachella Music Festival in California.
Successfully maneuvering through bureaucratic red tape, Sketpa acquired a visa and was ready to tear up American stages. As the name suggests, Skeppy went into this tour with the intention of fucking shit up, giving the American government and other wastemen a real reason to bar him from entering the country.
The Walk of Fame adorns 15 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard with brass stars engrained with the biggest names in the entertainment industry. Queen Latifa, LL Cool J, Diddy, Pharell, and Pitbull are the only hip hop artists whose place in history is written in gold on the boulevard.
I do not think Skepta would not cross the minds of any of the committee members involved the Walk of Fame selection process. Yet, with the empirical success of Konnichiwa (Quit talkin’ numbers, calculator) and his ability to sell out a show on Hollywood Blvd., it is hard to deny Skepta’s rising influence as a major figure in hip-hop.
Skepta’s rise to stardom in the United States is very recent, gaining mainstream notoriety for his 4th studio album, Konnichiwa, which dropped in 2016. However, his lack of publicity in America should not underscore the influence Skepta has on British popular culture.
Skeppy is an icon. He has been spitting since 2006 and Konnichiwa has only spurred a resurgence in Grime music, which’s 140 bpm tempo has pulsed like the beating heart of the Ends since the early 2000’s.
The tremulous energy of the crowd vibrated through the floorboards of the Fonda. One could feel the pressure under their feet, like a geyser building up to a climatic release. DJ Maximum prepped the crowd, playing well-known grime hits such as Giggs’ “Whippin’ Excursion” or Section Boyz’ “Who Needs a Hook?” This was only a momentary release to the anticipation of Skeppy’s arrival on stage, a preview of the chaos that was to come.
The lights of the Fonda went black, and a red, floating, Dragon Ball type orb visual floated on stage, mocking the crowd which was already starting to heave towards the front. The clash of a gong rang out of the Fonda’s massive speakers, reverberated off the ceiling, and bombarded my ears…I knew the madness had started.
Lookin’ for me?
My back was hit by a massive wave of hands and shoulders, flinging me into wall of sweaty, jutting bodies. Rockin’ all black, Skepta hopped on stage and started going in immediately, opening with the title track “Konnichiwa”.
Nah, that’s not me. Act like a wasteman? that’s not me.
The lead single from Konnichiwa, “That’s not Me” was guaranteed to turn up the crowd. The mosh pit started as the wet base hits of the track wubbed throughout the theatre.
And I’m screaming BBK BBK, none of them flex like BBK
Skepta took it back to early in the mixtape days with “Ace Hood Flow” from his 2012 project Blacklisted .
Yeah, hear me on the radio, wah gwan? See me on the TV, hi mum!
The crowd was feeling themselves now, reciting every word of “Lyrics” back to Skeppy.
He rocked with more Konnichwa, performing “Corn on the Cob” and “Crime Riddim”.
It ain’t safe on the block, not even for the cops!
It wasn’t safe in the pit either. The theatre erupted upon hearing Young Lord voice bark “Get it squad. Squad, gang gang!” Skepta held the mic out to the crowd as the crowd screamed the hook of “It Ain’t Safe.” DJ Maximum started the track from the beginning, rebuilding the hype for a second drop and Skeppy’s three fierce verses.
Telling me about all these numbers. Then how come they are never on tour?
“Numbers” expresses Skepta’s skepticism towards record labels whose main focus is sales and not artistry. Skepta co-founded the Boy Better Know (BBK) label and Grime collective with his brother and fellow Grime rapper, Jme as a response. With songs like “Numbers”, the fact that Skepta can sell out shows in American record label’s backyard is all the more telling.
Finishing the first part of his set with “Detox”, Skepta passed the torched to his BBK homies Jme, Jammer, and Wiley. Despite the whispers throughout the crowd that Drake was in the building and ready to come on stage for “Skepta’s Interlude”, he did not make an appearance on stage. With his tracks “Skepta’s Interlude”, “KMT feat. Giggs”, and “No Long Talk feat Giggs”, Drake has certainly done his part to help put Grime on a major platform. I definitely would’ve been psyched to hear the track off More Life, but I am glad Skepta decided to give other BBK artists their time to shine in front of the sold out crowd. I think Skeppy wanted to demonstrate that Grime could stand on its own, like it has been for nearly 20 years. His point was well received, as the crew was able to keep the energy going and propel Skepta into his closing 3 tracks.
You murder me, I will live for eternity. If I survive, then I comin’ for you personally.
“No Security” is Skepta’s latest single. He told the fans that sadly, “No Security” was the only new shit he could play, but he promised new music was on the way. I was totally cool hearing the track twice that night, but I am geeked to know that new Skeppy is dropping soon.
In a black tracksuit and it’s shutdown! Boy Better Know when it’s shut down!”
So perfectly described by the scared, elderly voice in the “Shutdown” skit, the stage was filled with “a bunch of young men all dressed in black dancing extremely aggressively on stage.” Skepta had the Fonda locked off, as oscillating bodies crashed into each other with an animated fury that could only be understood from within the pit. My body was thrown from one side on the floor to the other, as the show reached an epic climax.
Tracksuit Mafia, Boy Better Know! London Boys, Active Boys, you get me?
Skeppy closed with “Man”, letting everyone in the crowd know one more time, that BBK was a forced to be reckoned with. As Skepta celebrated his extremely tight circle on stage, I searched for my Dicksquad niggas in the crowd. We linked up for the last track and jammed one last time before Skepta ended his set, walking off to Playboi Carti’s “Magnolia”.
This show was absolutely incredible. I’m very glad I got to see Skepta in such an intimate space. Skeppy was able to cultivate the energy of the crowd and had the Fonda bumpin’ for his entire 60-minute set. If there were any doubts that Grime is poppin in America, Skepta dispelled them all at that show.