Words By: Anthony Worrall
On April 6, Jack Rabbit Slim’s hosted grime’s hottest new prospect, South London-based MC & producer Kojo Kankam, or known better as Novelist. Since 2013, Novelist has emerged as a major force in the UK’s grime scene, having signed to major-label XL Recordings in 2014 originally as a part of grime crew The Square, and released the 1 Sec solo EP, an absolute banger of a record, with Mumdance in January 2015. Having left The Square to fully pursue a solo career, he has further enhanced his reputation through touring the US in 2015 with grime heavy-weights Skepta & Slimzee, and dropping some fierce singles, such as the fantastic ‘War’.
Much of the hype surrounding Novelist seems to position him as a potentially hugely influential grime revolutionary, and while this mainly comes from his insanely young age (he turned 19 in January), there is also a certain old-school feel to his music that sets him apart from pretty much anyone else in the grime scene at the moment. And at Jack Rabbit’s on Wednesday night, the “new face of grime” certainly lived up the hype.
The main event was preceded by the two DJ support acts, Mike Midnight and Bockman, who set a fairly hectic atmosphere to a room of about 30 people, pumping vintage grime tunes from the likes of JME et al. Finally, by about 11:30, in front of a pretty tiny crowd of about 70 or so people, Novelist ran out onto the stage, and played a sumptuous, intense & incapsulating hour-long set.
His set was filled with pretty much the entirety of his discography at the moment, however this only served to highlight what an impressive collection of tracks it already is. Novelist delivered his tracks impressively too, hyping up the disappointingly small crowd to feverish levels. His closing song, ‘Flavour’ (made with producer Murlo) was particularly energising in this respect, leading an “I say you energy, I say flavour” chant that was about as enjoyable as it was surreal to hear 70-odd people yelling “energy flavour” in unison. Another personal highlight was how he encouraged the crowd to dab during The Square song ‘Pengaleng’, to hilarious effect.
Regardless of how enthusiastic and passionate his performance was, his beats (which in this writer’s opinion are some of the best bangers around at the moment) sounded simply unbelievable, with the vintage Dizzee Rascal-esque big, dirty, stinking bass lines pushing both speakers and eardrums to the level, but never sounding out of place, or too much to handle.
Amongst others, recent single ‘Endz’, a track with intense, heavy, jungle-influenced production, sounded incredible and became almost hypnotic. However the two best-sounding songs in this writer’s opinion were the Mumdance-produced ‘1 Sec’ and ‘Take Time’, which normally are minimalist, experimental tracks, and sounded absolutely incredible, and combined with a performer as enthusiastic as Novelist in front of such tracks, it was a set that will live long in the memory.