The Lowdown: Novelist presents ‘The Sound’ @ Brixton’s Simulacra Studios

Last week saw young Lewisham MC Novelist take to the stage for his first set of headline shows, in association with Red Bull Studios.

Shutting down three shows over three nights in Brixton’s Simulacra Studios, Novelist and a team of special guests looked to perfect the live show element, something which many grime MCs have struggled with in the past.

It’s easy to see why many artists have struggled with creating a solid stage show. For a lot of MCs, the only bookings they get are MCing for a DJ at a club night, which is obviously a very different discipline to commanding a stage and performing your own material. Some artists have opted for live bands, while some just use backing tracks played by a DJ.

In a recent interview with us, Novelist told us that he had lots of surprises planned, and the first surprise was the unusual layout of the event. MCs performed from a balcony high above the crowd, while DJs mixed underneath in an odd 2-tier system. While Novelist and The Square seemed totally at home with this layout, it’s fair to say that Friday’s support act Bonkaz struggled slightly, with an uncooperative DJ also unable to hear his call for a reload, and also reloading the beat on a whim a couple of times. Bonkaz’ frustration was evident and understandable, but the crowd didn’t seem to mind, and both ‘We Run the Block’ and new track ‘Chased Out The Ends’ were well-received.

With sets from Darq E Freaker (who performed before Bonkaz) as well as Oil Gang and Slackk, there was a wide variety of grime on display throughout the night. Darq E Freaker also dropped a lot of trap and rap music, while Oil Gang and Slackk stuck primarily with instrumentals (but did drop a couple of vocals if I remember rightly).

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 10.30.45 By the time Novelist and The Square boys came onstage, the crowd was hyped and the venue was an absolute sweatbox. Undeterred, they proceeded to smash a set which centred around a few of their big tracks and reload bars, but also allowed time for each individual member a chance to freestyle. They were joined onstage by AJ Tracey, who caught out more than a few with his “….thought I missed the drop but I never” bar.

With Skepta also shutting down OVO Festival in Toronto this week, and grime slowly but surely making its way into the line-ups of more and more festivals, the live element of the genre arguably needs to be perfected now more than ever. Novelist and The Square showed that they have plenty of good ideas with their Red Bull Studios shows, and have obviously had plenty of practice recently. They know how to keep a crowd happy and, in Elf Kid’s own words, they spat the reload bar when it mattered.