Record of the year: Europe, The Final Countdown

IF the year was 1986 then perhaps the synth rock of The Final Countdown by Europe, the Swedes with big hair, would be the record of the year. When trying to decide the record that captures what 2016 was all about it is those songs inspired by big European dreams that make the final countdown.

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2016 has been a year of political shocks and upheavals and it also took one of the greatest artists of all time when Prince died in April. Other icons, from music, sport and politics, have all passed away throughout the past 12 months, seemingly abnormally so, leading to some to claim the past year has been one of the worst ever. Continue reading

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Kano @ Tramshed, Cardiff

“This the motherfucking thanks I get from this scene?/Ten years deep, a thousand 16s”

IS any rapper ever satisfied their position in hip hop has been properly recognised and respected? Striving for acceptance, and resentment at any perceived lack of acknowledgment, still fuels so many MCs. kano

Kano is already recognised as one of the central figures in the emergence of the UK grime scene but that yearning for props is still evident.

2016 has however delivered a Mercury Music Prize nomination for Kano’s fifth LP, Made in the Manor, and a nationwide tour which brought him to Cardiff – and left the 31-year-old veteran in no doubt as to the esteem he is held in the capital. Continue reading

Lowkey @ Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff

“I’m an anarchist and an angry academic activist”

THIS July marked the return of UK MC Lowkey from his apparent retirement with the surprise release of hard-hitting single Ahmed. lowkey2

Within weeks the rapper, who in 2012 said he was hanging up his mic for good, announced a tour including a September 17 date in Cardiff. Continue reading

De La Soul @ Newport Centre

“Most crews are post-current while we’re forever”

“We go by the name of De La Soul and we’ve been doing this for quite some time,” explains Dave, aka Trugoy, unnecessarily as everyone in the Newport Centre appears familiar with the Long Island trio and their contribution to hip hop.

Dave, aka Trugoy, of De La Soul

Dave, aka Trugoy, of De La Soul

2016 marks 20 years since De La released ‘Stakes Is High’ – their response to the ghetto fabulous state of hip hop at the time and considered a re-introduction from some of the game’s elder statesmen. “Man every word I say should be a hip hop quotable,” raps Pos during that title track – and the crowd do know every line. Continue reading

Saul Williams @ Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff

Chop my neck a million times, I still burn bright and stand, yo

“I’M inspired by people, you all have your own stories and thankyou for being part of mine,” is how poet and performer Saul Williams thanks a sold out Friday night crowd in Cardiff.

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The story Williams, whose music is perhaps best described as alternative hip hop, has come to tell is that of Martyr Loser King – a hacker in Burundi using the west’s easily discarded technology to spread chaos through the internet; “Hacker, I’m a hacker, I’m a hacker in your hard drive… I’m a virus in your system”. Continue reading

The Jungle Brothers @ Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff

“As the sun do shine/JBeez rock well”

“It’s a pleasure to be back in Cardiff,” says Afrika Baby Bam as the Jungle Brothers move through the thank yous at the end of their quick-fire 50 minute set.
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The JBeez returned to the Welsh capital just two weeks short of a year from their last show in the city and a UK tour that seemingly convinced them of the enduring popularity of Hip Hop’s golden age this side of the Atlantic. Continue reading

Pharoahe Monch @ The Globe, Cardiff

If you holding up the wall, then you missing the point

THE force of energy that is Pharoahe Monch steps across the Globe stage to loud cheers with his DJ and small band having already built the sense of anticipation for the enigmatic Queens MC.
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On a sweaty, humid July 1 night in the Welsh capital Monch will soon discard his ceremonial, military style jacket as he get straight into his no compromising set. Continue reading