LIVE REVIEW: Just B, NE-O and a surprise RoninClan set? – Flex Fridays, Emporium Bar | 27/12/19

Newcastle’s newest regular hip-hop & rap night Flex Friday hosted the joint launch of Just B and NE-O’s most recent EPs in what was an impressive second instalment of the event.

Brainchild of host and artist Sagaboi Flex, Flex Fridays is another healthy addition to Newcastle’s live hip-hop scene, giving local artists a showcase-style platform at Emporium bar on the quayside. The event has seen a decent turnout both times now, no doubt benefiting from the invitingly slick aesthetic of an upmarket bar.

On paper the event doesn’t really fit the venue, but it seems to get people that wouldn’t normally come to local hip-hop shows through the door. Flex Friday, unlike a lot of past local hip-hop events, doesn’t come across so underground that it’s inaccessible to your average Friday night reveller. Fingers crossed it can carry this momentum into 2020!

Sagaboi got this special EP launch event underway with his own brand of melodic rap. Saga clearly has a good understanding of how to use auto tune with a bit of finesse, jumping in and out of it to blend catchy hooks with potent bars. Saga’s sound draws a lot from 808’s Kanye, with a darker edge that borrows from Soundcloud trappers like Trippie Red, Lil Peep and Juice WRLD. He’s definitely in his own lane as far as the North East is concerned, we’re predicting a big year ahead. A standout from Saga’s opening set up was an unreleased collab with KV$HNOODLE. The pair blended Blink 182’s pop-punk classic “Feeling This” into a catchy emotionally charged track.

KV$HNOODLE was quickly back on the mic for his set. A sound not too dissimilar to Saga’s in its energy, KV$H’s emotionally fuelled trap-metal got the room charged up. One of the most passionate performers I’ve ever seen live, KV$H always seems to push himself to the emotional and physical limit on stage, and tonight was no different. However, to the surprise of the room KV$H cut his set short and passed the mic to fellow NRTHGODS members Shoshin Noel and Longcat of RoninClan for an impromptu set.

Due to battling a serious medical condition Shoshin, aka Jak Francis, hasn’t been able to perform live in sometime. So even seeing him pick up a mic created a palpable buzz in the room, a buzz that hit fever pitch when he dropped one of Ronin’s biggest hype tracks “Usurp” (it’s also my personal favourite). Bouncing from left to right and punching the air, Shoshin looked in his element, letting loose after months of being physically unable to perform. On a personal level it was brilliant to see one of my favourite artists back looking his best despite all he’s going through. Jak is still in need of specialist surgery to ensure he can live a normal life and, of course, carry on making music. If you’d like to find out more and donate to Jak’s GoFundMe follow this link.

Zico MC was the man tasked with following up what was a mammoth performance from KV$H and Ronin. Turns out there was no better emcee for the job. Zico fed off the hyped up crowd, jumping straight into his signature high energy dub flows. Zico has the temperament of a veteran on the mic, never stumbling and always managing to get the room on his side. Start to finish Zico smashed it.

One of the most hyped up and coming artists in Newcastle right now, Pxnther had a lot to prove being so high on the bill. Numbers-wise, despite being the youngest performing, Pxnther has definitely racked up the most streams; boasting over 300K listens combined on Spotify. With a circle of people surrounding him, the young spitter showed his range with hyped up melodic drill banger “Mondingo” and his catchy most-streamed single “What Do I Do”. Pxnther owned his set with a huge amount of charisma, proving he’s worth the hype. A young guy with bags of potential, this is only the beginning of Pxnther’s story – he’s one to watch in 2020.

One of two headliners celebrating their respective EP releases, NE-O turned up ready to shell the place with his new material. Dawning a golden yellow North Face jacket and matching do-rag, the NE Dons spitter looked focused, like he was ready to make this his moment. And by god he was. Belting out his latest from the ‘WAVE’ EP, NE-O was surrounded by screw-faces and gun fingers. Firing on all cylinders, delivering bars with an equal amount of passion and aggression, NE-O looked like he was ready to burst at times. The energy he brought was huge. Even when wearing a Captain Morgan pirate hat during new banger “Arthur Morgan” NE-O (aka Morgan Cole) still went hard, stealing the show with an untouchable determination.

Ending the night with his joint headline slot was Just-B, undoubtedly one of the best rappers the North East has ever produced. His new EP ‘Valley of the Ash Trees’ was the best project of 2019 in our opinion, an opinion that seemed to be reflected by many fans online. It’s no surprise then that there’s a lot of hype around Just B, a lot of pressure to bring that same talent to the live stage. And for the most part at Flex Friday Just B brought just that. Spitting his signature fast flows with that gritty Geordie cadence that he does better than anyone else.

But mid-set you could sense that the pressure seemed to be getting to B on the night, something just didn’t feel right. Forgetting bars and shaking his head, clearly beating himself up inside, B was struggling. He wasn’t done yet though, B’s never say die attitude meant he got back into his bag quickly despite small technical issues, closing things out with a bang!

Words: Johno Ramsay // Photos: Callum Wood & Aaron Carlton

Listen to NE-O’s ‘WAVE’ EP and Just B’s ‘Valley of the Ash Trees’ EP on streaming services now!