When it comes to hip-hop, all eyes are on the US. It's where things started and it's going through a really strong time right now. Regionalism, or even nationalism, is much less of a thing throughout music today, partly because of a little thing called the internet but also because musical styles will inevitably evolve, pooling influence past state or country boundaries. While the internet does a lot of great things for hip-hop, one thing it can't even come close to mimicking or removing is the live experience.
...And that's a good thing; it's fine the way it is, I can't see any need for it to change and it remains a viable source of income for artists while the web has little to do with it. I know the likes of Tidal focus on lives streams and sessions and stuff, but for me, unless you're there at the venue, I'd probably rather just listen to the record.
A lot more rappers have been coming over to the UK recently (just this month we've had Antwon, Da$h, Mobb Deep and Robb Bank$, the latter who I'm here to talk about), but the US focus of the genre means that if you live outside of London (or Glasgow, as it seems), it's a real novelty experience to make it out to a show and see the rappers you're into.
With Robb Bank$ in mind, the first night of his first headline tour on European soil must have been a kind of scary one to approach. He's been putting out material for at least three years now, so it must be difficult to know what expect. Does worldwide internet notoriety convert to tickets sold or are hip-hop fans in 2015 a little lazy with it?
Whatever anybody thought, Robb Bank$ was ready to impress. Entering from the back of the crowd and throwing himself around while Nuri, long-standing collaborator, producer and his DJ for this evening, plays Slayer or something. It's unexpected, but it fits in with the heavier aspects of Bank$' recent 2PHONESHAWTY EP and it gets a fairly tired Thursday night crowd into things pretty quickly.
Joined onstage by tour support and friend IndigoChildRick, Bank$ hands the reigns over to Rick early on to perform 'Retribution'. Rick is a bright young talent who, at this stage, is pretty unknown in the UK. I say that in the nicest way possible, though, because he won over a room of new fans pretty quickly at this show, something I'm sure was common for the rest of the tour. Rick was wearing an ammo belt around his body or something which I thought was cool as hell.
'That shit old as hell, how you even know about that' Bank$ laughs at one point, illustrating just how much these internet-savvy listeners do their homework. And with that, those kids who study this stuff will be all over IndigoChildRick tapes as soon as they're home. There's less emphasis on buying physical releases today: fans are savvy, loyal and have little regard for whether music is new or old - that idea is more foreign now that everything sits together in your iTunes library, so fans want to hear it all, no matter how old it might be.
The set is long and varied, showcasing Robb's sizable collection of singles and mixtapes well while giving the longer-term fans their fix, too. He speaks with the crowd to determine the set between tracks, but it's much more genuine and much less Green Day at Wembley than it sounds.
Tracks like On Me, Cadie / The Come Down and All The Way Live are just as well received as new tracks off the 2PHONESHAWTY project (which I'm still not overly familiar with). Robb teases the crowd with an unreleased track which was absolutely huge. So huge that he and Nuri stopped the track after a single verse, which suggests that they know they're sitting on some great things on Robb's debut LP, Year Of The Savage, which is set to come out at some point in the second half of 2015.
The show was a solid performance from someone who, for a long time, has existed as an online artist alone for a UK fans. I've got very used to listening to an artist through my iTunes library, keeping up with mixtapes and that being it. Maybe it's because I don't live in London I don't get to see rappers all too often, maybe the cost of Europe puts upcoming artists off from coming over, too, but it's certainly something I see becoming more important as the internet diversifies things further. Props to Robb, Nuri and Rick for doing it, live shows certainly help you secure long term fans and I'm sure their future efforts will benefit from their stint in Europe.
Oh, and of course, shouts to BFOs booking for asking me along to the show!