At 6pm on Tuesday 3rd March, I was anticipating having some dinner, watching TV and getting an early night. Pretty typical for a Tuesday. When it first popped up on my Twitter feed that Kanye West was to be playing a last minute show at Camden’s infamous KOKO, the first thing that went through my mind was “Wow, that would be amazing. It’s a shame I can’t go.” I clicked the ticket link, out of curiosity more than anything, and all of a sudden there were two tickets sat in my basket, with five minutes for me to check out and pay for them. Then, I realised that maybe, I could go, and I thought to myself: What Would Kanye Do? Would Kanye go and see Kanye in London with only a few hours’ notice? Of course he would. So, I did.
The advertised door time of 11pm turned out to be a lie, something that was found out around 12.30am when, after two hours of standing in the cold, the crowd slowly started to trickle into the venue. The show kicked off around 1am with some people still to get in the venue, eager to get inside and desperate to absorb the atmosphere and music that awaited them. By the time everyone was in, the venue was more packed than you could possibly imagine, with people perched on ledges, hanging onto railings and craning their necks for a glimpse of the man they had all come to see.
Everyone was anticipating new material, which is something they got when Kanye premiered a track with Vic Mensa from Yeezy’s upcoming album So Help Me God, as well as ‘Wolves’ and the just-released ‘All Day’, which he closed the night with by playing twice. However, fans were treated to a bit of everything from the Kanye discography, with ‘Black Skinhead’, ‘New Slaves’ and ‘Blood on the Leaves’ from Yeezus, ‘So Appalled’, ‘Power’ and ‘All of the Lights’ from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, ‘Can’t Tell Me Nothing’ and ‘Good Life’ from Graduation, ‘Jesus Walks’ from College Dropout and ‘Mercy’, ‘Cold’, ‘Clique’ and ‘Don’t Like’ from Cruel Summer.
The show was a full of special guests who each got their chance to perform, be it some of their own material or with Kanye himself. Skepta, JME, Novelist, Big Sean, Vic Mensa, Meridian Dan, Cyhi the Prynce and Raekwon were all there, resulting in a gig that spanned the decades and genres of hip hop, ranging from the old school with Wu-Tang’s ‘C.R.E.A.M.’ to modern grime with Meridian Dan’s ‘German Whip’. All the while, Kanye was getting involved, rapping along or just dancing about the stage with his new-found crew. This wasn’t just a Kanye concert, this was Kanye curating a night of hip hop.
Seeing Kanye live really does emphasise how much care he puts into everything he does. He is an absolute perfectionist who is happy to rewind a track and start it again because he wanted the lighting technician to turn off a red light (requesting “only strobes” for ‘Black Skinhead’), or to make the crowd wait for a minute while he makes sure the projected backdrop is showing the correct image to go with ‘Jesus Walks’ (which was literally a case of him saying “Next… Next… Next… Next… Go back one…”). Some might see it as self-indulgent of him to set such high standards of quality and to make a big deal out of essentially nothing, but this is his art, and he wants to have control over every aspect of it.
Though some joked about the show, sarcastically saying about how “Kanye is introducing London to grime music”, it seemed to be more that he was giving them a platform and showing his encouragement for the artists and the genre. This was a night of Kanye celebrating hip hop music, the people that create it, and of course, himself. Check out the fully stacked setlist below!
‘That’s Not Me’ (with Skepta & JME)
‘Mercy’ (with Big Sean)
‘German Whip’ (with Meridian Dan)
’96 Fuckries’ (with JME)
‘Blessings’ (with Big Sean)
‘All Me’ (with Big Sean)
‘Clique’ (with Big Sean)
‘Shutdown’ (with Skepta)
‘Can’t Tell Me Nothing’
‘I Don’t Fuck With You’ (with Big Sean)
‘All of the Lights’
‘It Ain’t Safe’
‘Don’t Like’ (with Big Sean)
‘C.R.E.A.M.’ (with Raekwon)
‘Blood on the Leaves’ (with Raekwon)
‘All Day’ (with all guest MC’s and rappers)
Photo by Dan Hess.