Daniel Dumile, MF Doom, DOOM, The Supervillain. The Loop Digga, Quasimoto, Madlib, Yesterday’s New Quintet. Whatever you decide to call them, together they become Madvillain, one of the best hip hop duos from the past ten years. I remember the announcement of the gig a few months back when it was just DOOM and others on the setlist but after the DOOMposter debacles over the past years and the price of the ticket, I decided against it. Then I got an email saying Madlib was added to the list. A ticket was bought within half an hour. At the cost of DOOM not showing, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to see one of my production idols.
So the day came, Friday 12th October. Doors opened at 8pm but I was anticipating a late start because that’s just how hip hop gigs go. The event opened with Illum Sphere on the decks. The beats he dropped were top quality, as to be expected from a DJ of his calibre. The first acts to support were Jehst and Parky. From what I could hear (the sound quality at the HMV Forum isn’t very good, even with earplugs in – I had to fashion some out of tissues to reduce the volume), it sounded pretty good with plenty of energy from both MCs. Then came Dels, a rapper I had previously heard about that week from Potholes. Upon further research (god bless smartphones), I discovered he was also a graphic designer, which is something I also dabble in. I don’t know if it was just me or that was how he performed but he seemed a little nervous on stage, but he needn’t be as he put in a great performance as did his drummer (who was called Giles, according to a friend of his from the crowd). By this time, it was after 9:30. My feet were starting to ache and the place was all but full. I was cramped at the front waiting patiently for the Supervillain to show. Just when I thought there was a glimmer of hope… another DJ showed up. This time it was Kutmah, and while some of the jams he was playing were good, for me, it went on about half an hour too long. The saving grace was noticing Ras G pop up every few minutes and J. Rocc checking the facilities. I caught a glimpse of a text conversation between two people in the crowd and they too weren’t best pleased with the DJ or having to wait so long. They must not have known DOOM that well.
Finally, the moment came. The real Daniel Dumile in all his masked glory stepped onto the stage in an orange high visibility jacket. Having never seen him before, I could now tell the grandkids that I had “seen” DOOM with my own eyes. Before the gig, I had hoped he would perform my favourite cuts of Madvillainy, in particular Accordion and All Caps. Needless to say, I lost my entire shit when the first track he performed was… Accordion. This was my chance to rap along live as I had been learning the words for such an occasion. His flow wasn’t as lacklustre as from previous live sets I had heard; in fact, he was sounding as fresh as ever. He ploughed through the Madvillainy beats and moved into Rock Co Kane Flow, Operation: Doomsday and Mm.. Food. People were asking for Viktor Vaughan but he never turned up. This was all about DOOM, MF Doom, Metal Fingers and King Geedorah. I’m not even sure if there would have been enough space for Viktor.
This is what people had truly paid to see – one of the craziest, most controversial and mysterious identities in hip hop music and culture just spitting and doing what he does best. For those minutes he was on stage, all the bitterness and anger from previous no-shows were erased. Fans were hyped and he was moving with them – he even pretended to jump into the crowd. Despite his stature, I’m sure people would have done their best to keep him afloat.
Then came Madlib. He actually entered the stage during DOOM’s performance, dancing along like a b-boy high on weed (at least half of that description was true). When it was finally time for Metal Fingers to call it quits – after his encore of course – Madlib set up shop behind the decks. This was his Medicine Show tour featuring J Rocc and Freddie Gibbs and I was expecting some great cuts, old and new, having been a fan of his Medicine Show tapes from last year. Now, I may be biased in my overall opinion of his performance but I enjoyed what he put out. It wasn’t a clean and polished set that you’d get from, say, DJ Jazzy Jeff or Cut Chemist for example, but he did his own thing, played the jams and joked around with the effects. But the crowd weren’t having it. He dropped Slum Village and very little people moved – in fact, Dilla was thrown in by other DJs and most people nodded and that was it. As I was to find out later via Twitter, people didn’t take too kindly to the “poor set” (more).
I don’t live in London, so due to trains and lower limb pain (I’m something of a newbie when it comes to gigs), I left shortly after Freddie Gibbs start performing. I stayed for two songs and left. While I wish I could have stayed for J. Rocc, in fairness, I only really came to see Madvillain. They didn’t come AS Madvillain, but their presence on stage together for those brief moments were as good as the real deal for me. For me, the highlight of the evening was DOOM’s performance. My only real criticisms were the time it took for the main acts to come on and, in my opinion, a rubbish crowd for the most part but maybe my standards are different to theirs. They seemed more like the kinds of people who were only fans of DOOM because it was cool to be fans. Same for Madlib. If they had been aware of Madlib’s previous sets, they wouldn’t have been so surprised and disappointed and that’s probably why I wasn’t. Hell, if anything, I left feeling inspired to start doing that myself. I learnt something after leaving Kentish Town that night: get some proper earplugs, try to stay away from the front and ignore the fake fans. For the real fans who attended, I salute you.
(Superb photography courtesy of Steven Howard Photography)