John Lennon used to talk about the importance of an artist finding their true voice, the one that they were too scared to let others hear. Only once an artist had found that voice, and spoke with it, would they have anything meaningful to say.
Not only have the hip-hop artists at the Legacy Skate shop stage found their true voice, but they spoke more with it during their sets than I have in my entire 39 years. They would have make John Lennon proud.
Opening up about mental health challenges, paranoia and suicidal thoughts, each MC brought descriptive and detailed insights into their experiences of living in Broken Britain, and finding meaning in a society which gives our young, at best, an uncertain future, wrapped up in the effects of high unemployment, zero contract work and a minimum wage culture.
Opener Kv$hnoodle, the most impactful of the MC’s I saw, was also the most honest. Cuts ‘Red rum’ and ‘Paralysed’, as well as the moments of collaboration with sharp intellect ‘Nighty bro’, stood out in a set especially hard hitting and delivered not just with a fine flow but also with painful screams. His was the sound of a man breaking himself apart for everyone to see.
Second up ‘Jister’, though more West-coast and ‘De la soul’ styled, took a less aggressive, more casual, delivery style to similar causes of anxiety. Standout ‘Shut them down’, a smooth take on Nancy Sinatras ‘Bang Bang’, may well have been the best track of the day thanks to its accessible sounds and brave lyrics.
Duo Endem & Leum, followed by Liam Hope, kick the set back into a more aggressive style of beat and delivery. Hope, in particular, with tails of violent glassings, and his pattern of breaking supportive relationships, asks deep questions about what we value in society and, more importantly, about his own shortcomings. There are no answers, just questions.
The work of those at the Legacy Skate area was a true testimony to the DIY nature of hip-hop and its ability to enable artists with little financial support to speak their truth in an open, supportive, environment.
Passionate, painfully honest, and brilliantly insightful, all of those artists spoke with the kind of truth difficult to configure, let alone to speak outloud. There’s a lesson for us all if we listen.