Live music co-ordinator Sam Wright is no stranger to putting on exciting live music showcases across the North East, spotlighting some of the best local musicians in the region. His latest offering, the ‘OUTofthecrowd: Hip-Hop Expo’ at Barca Art Bar in Tynemouth, might just be one of the best local hip-hop events I’ve ever been to.
Sam has put on hip-hop only events before, but they’ve often lacked a real spark due to the sometimes restrictive size and layout of the cafe venues that hosted the nights. However, Barca’s upstairs venue was perfect for the Hip-Hop Expo; the performance area was spacious and really let the artists put on high energy performances, involving the crowd and creating an electric atmosphere.
First up to perform was John Dole, fresh off the back of the release of his debut EP. The least experienced performer on the bill, John held his own, spitting hypnotising rhymes backed by spacey, cavernous beats that were perfectly mixed live by his DJ. The vibe of John’s music is a lot more laid back than the other rappers on the bill, making him the perfect opening act to get the crowd warmed up.
Kay Greyson was up next, armed with a set filled with new bangers as well as old favourites like “LSD” and “Up”. Every track on Kay’s set felt like an encore track, each one hit the mark, hyping up the crowd a notch more every time, resulting in a mass dancing finale to her new anti-love song to Newcastle “NCL”. I’ve seen Kay perform many times, in many different venues – from tiny cafes to the O2 Academy – and I can easily say this was my favourite performance of hers to date.
Another artist we’re more than familiar with here at RIDE Music was the night’s headliner, Nato. Newcastle’s favourite busking rapper, Nato brought his A game to Tynemouth, making the most of the intimate environment, with crowd interaction the main focus of his set. Nato has a stage presence and instant likeability that no amount of money or training can get you, he’s just got that spark, that eccentricity, that energy, that passion, that thing that makes his performances special – as this one was.
A special mention goes out to all of the performers that joined in the open-mic segments in-between sets, the likes of grime duo NE Dons, 90 BRO and Max Gavins (to name a few), everyone made the night that bit more special. The open-mic segments might be the only thing about the event that needs a little more refining next time around (fingers crossed there is a next time); having 3/4 different open-mic segments felt a little confusing at times. The intention behind it, to let as many rappers as possible perform, is a good one, but as a non-rapper I feel having a little break from live music would have made the night feel smoother – maybe one big open mic segment at the end would work better.
Overall, the ‘OUTofthecrowd: Hip-Hop Expo’ was a fantastic night. The North East hip-hop scene desperately needs more nights like this, hopefully this one can become a regular occasion.