Here at HTF we count ourselves very lucky when we get the opportunity to attend live events of all kinds, but here in the urban section we really do get excited when someone such as the mesmerising Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) decides to lay his hat on our little island. This hip hop legend decided to grace a cold, wet, windy November night in the south-west of England with his presence and we our thankful for his decision. Just over a month ago as a build up to this show, we put together a list of things that we can expect from a live greeting with the Brooklyn rapper. So we are going to see whether or not he matched up to our expectations or not, and were there any surprises?
One of the main things that has come apparent with his music and especially his live performances, is that when it comes down to it Mos Def’s shows are going to be full of good vibes. This is something that we have seen time and time again, either throughout his musical discography and his at gigs over the years around the world. This show was not any different. He came on sprinkling rose petals on the stage from his hat, the whole arena was bathed in a dark deep red glow of stage lights, and with a Bruce Lee film playing on the big screen as it was the big guys birthday.
As it was a celebratory performance of fifteen years since his great first album ‘Black On Both Sides’, it was full of those classic New York nineties sounds. From that boom-bap base heavy sound on tracks such as ‘Mathematics’ to that soul delving and deep jazz feelings ‘Umi Says’. As well as his own classic hip hop sounds, he also did a few dedication tracks to his home city of NYC. From Notorious B.I.G., Ol’ Dirty Bastard and even a bit of A Tribe Called Quest, Yasiin Bey bought his home city with him to the small quite south-west of England. Unfortunately, his set did miss a few big tracks from the album and a few of the usual promised classics of his over such as ‘Sunshine’ (something a lot of people wanted to hear in particular) did let the overall feel of the set a little bit.
Now arguably something which is usually associated with Mos Def and his music is a good message, his consciousness of social and political issues and even problems is something which he has expressed in abundance over the years. Apart from the direct messages from his lyrical content of the music he played and his expressions of love and peace (which came along quite a lot), we did expect to see a little bit more of his consciousness. However, this might have been us expecting to much because his occasional outbreak into dance and messages of love where still special.
Something that we were particularly expecting and properly looking forward to from this performance was quite simply his renowned passion and energy. This was quite easily the thing that we expected and Mos Def delivered so fully. With the dark red light, rose petals everywhere, and jazz and soul music samples, the passion was quite obvious. But like The Two Ronnie’s, you can not have one without the other, environmental passion like that can almost be lost without the dedicated energy from the performer. But we were surely relived, either the amount of freestyle fast paced lyrical content he brought or the constant love filled throwing himself around the stage (dancing) really did make the show. Overall, Mos Def really did bring plenty of each renowned element of his as a hip hop artists and a person (all of which we told you to expect remember!), and he put so much into the performance to earn all of our respects, though like he did not have them anyway.