A lot is said about hip-hop being the new rock music nowadays, in terms of it’s counter-culture status and tendency to ambush the charts. Now, that’s a fair comparison, but in some circumstances it doesn’t quite fit – especially in the UK. As far as I’m concerned, UK rap is as mainstream as pop music right now, and MoStack is one of our modern pop-stars.
Sitting in the balcony area of the O2 Academy looking over at a sold-out floor space as MoStack’s DJ plays the hottest in UK rap, it’s obvious that the majority of the crowd are young teens – a 70/30 split female to male. I knew MoStack’s brand of afroswing was popular, but before this show I didn’t fully comprehend just how mainstream it is. Stacko is sharing his audience with the likes of Ed Sheeran, Lewis Capaldi, Harry Styles and countless other sweeter than sugar pop-stars.
A skinny, bespectacled guy in some tore up grey jeans and a plush white hoodie steps on stage to a barrage of ear piercing screams. The unassuming presence of MoStack handles a Beatles-like welcome like it was nothing. Mo dives straight into his sophomore album ‘Stacko’, tracks like “Shannon” inciting a venue wide sing-a-long on every hook. In fact, virtually every track had the same effect, Mo’s mic was pointed towards the crowd more often than it was pointed towards himself.
It was a strange feeling seeing these young female fans sing-a-long with such hedonistic lyrics that regularly and without subtly reference sex, violence and misogyny. “All I want is more life and more vagina / Thought I was broke until the gwap surprised her
/ Couldn’t line up girls, and now the girls are lined up” Mo raps on fan favourite “Sticking Rich”. But, when you really think about it, both hip-hop and pop music have been guilty of selling morally questionable lyrics to the youth since their inception. Tracks like Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop” and 50 Cent’s “Candy Shop” soundtracked my high school parties, MoStack is only carrying on that trend. Granted, those two tracks were slightly more subtle than Mo’s about their passion for misogyny… only slightly though.
It’d be easy to argue that Mo didn’t really have to put in much work during this performance. The crowd were happy just to be hearing the tracks in a live setting regardless of what level of effort Mo was giving on stage, but, despite that he gave 100%. The 25 year-old rapper showed skill in reading the crowd, transitioning to the next track half-way through songs when he felt the energy dipping.
The second half of Mo’s set made the first half look tame, whipping out his all-star collabs with artists like AJ Tracey, J-Hus and Dave. It was bangers only as we rocketed towards the finish line. Mo hopped around the stage, windmilling his arms around and kicking his feet in the air without caution when each hook kicked in. Mo even managed to orchestrate a huge circle pit with a crowd that I’m pretty sure have little to no experience moshing.
MoStack is leading afroswing’s assault on the UK charts, stealing fans from X-Factor rejects and dull American pop-stars with his undeniable ability to create vibes that get your body moving. Mo’s sound is clearly captivating a lot of young people, it’s something different to the norm, something fresh. And although his lyrics are questionable, his ear for a banger certainly isn’t.
Photos by David Wala (courtesy of O2 Academy Newcastle)