Expect to catch Lazy Habits at a festival. Their formula of riffing horns, familiar breaks and mildly subversive lyrics would go down well after a few ciders. Tonight's relatively sober setting doesn't do them any favours though. There's little sign of Hip Hop's cutting edge and the jazziness is window dressing. The Roots they are not.
With debut album 'Bristol Grammar' about to drop, K.Ners is a rising star of UK Hip Hop. He has a commanding stage presence and a sackful of decent tunes - it's a shame he doesn't play them through. Guests vocals from Blacksmith, Misha B and D Gritty mean there's plenty going on but it's a stop / start affair. Beats are pulled up when they've barely started - it's like watching edited highlights of a good show. There are no such issues for local legend Cheeba, though, whose precision-tooled turntablism aims straight for the dancefloor and explodes on impact. It’s the most convincing set of the night.
In jeans, braces and a flat cap, Mos Def looks like he’s auditioning for a big screen adaptation of The Waltons. While 2009's 'The Ecstatic' is his best solo album in a decade tonight's set is a bit of a let down. Stripped of his excellent backing band, the music suffers from a bass-heavy mix which buries detail and leaves vocals floating in space. While the spiralling guitar hook of 'Supermagic' flies fast enough to hit its mark, subtler productions fall short. Even classics like 'Ms Fat Booty' and 'Umi Says' sound a little throwaway in this context. The warmth of Mos Def's personality and some great vocals prevent the show from tanking - he even hands out flowers, Morrissey-style. Hardly a vintage performance, though. Next time, bring the band.
Photography by Ellen Doherty.
This review originally appeared in Venue Magazine.