Stormzy’s first gig in New York went exactly how you think it did
Ralphie roadmen on tour
LA, Austin, Toronto, Brooklyn. Each is famous for rap, but not an obvious hotspot for grime. They are a far, far cry from the chicken shops and seven quid fades for which Croydon is famous.
But in a world where Drake left his own label for BBK, anything is possible. So Stormzy is just finishing up a sold out US tour before smashing out an Ibiza residency this summer.
The 2015 poster child of grime made his first New York appearance at the Market Hotel in Brooklyn, a venue oddly similar to the ketty basements of regional England where most uni kids spent second year. The Red Stripe was replaced with Narragansett and the Jack Wills was replaced with Patagonia, but the vibe was the same.
The crowd, split pretty equally between entitled British grad students studying at Columbia, guys from Essex wearing football shirts, and confused Brooklyn locals, was pumped from the off. Bolstered by the opening DJ spinning bangers like Pow, Shutdown and Lock Arff there was a brief lull when the Queens’ based support act Nasty Nigel took the stage. Although punchy and vaguely grime-like, the London mans didn’t care and the New Yorkers got impatient.
Eventually the big man with a beard made his way through the crowd, surrounded by his boxing-like entourage. Bought and paid for by Adidas at this point, he was decked out to the point of saturation in a bright blue tracksuit and Adidas creps (but no-one asked where he got them).
Getting off to a rocky start, he paused between his first and second tracks to turn on the sound/sideman. He proclaimed: “This is a very historical occasion and we are not going to let the soundman fuck this shit up” before baiting him out in front of the 400-strong crowd.
His patter with the crowd wasn’t great. In the shadow of the JMZ subway where Hova took his name, you can’t help but wonder if the real big hitters of rap would spend so long plugging their own hashtags or Adidas collaboration.
But eventually he found his rhythm, delivering punch after dirty grimy punch into the New York rap game. Via tunes like Standard, 10 minutes and Not That Deep, he showed the few Americans that he wasn’t intimidated and definitely wasn’t fucking around.
Promising to come back and make it “bigger, better and louder” next time, the show reached its fever pitch finale with Shut Up, Know Me From and WickedSkengman 4, the olden wooden floor of Market Hotel bucking and dipping as all the roadmen in Brooklyn got #MERKY2016.
“I wanna hang out in Brooklyn with you, drink liquor, get turnt” said Big Mike, before bringing himself back to London: “but I’m a sweaty cunt and I need to towel off first” and inadvertently summing up the entire evening – a hot, dark sweaty mess that, as one friend put it as we made our way out, “either made me like New York more or miss London a shitload, but I don’t know which.”
Pictures and featured image courtesy of Sidewalk Hustle