It takes a lot of confidence to be this ridiculous.
So tonight I got to enjoy an evening full of gritty, fresh, and raw talent. A quintessentially London style venue in and of itself, Scala is a beautiful regenerated multi-purpose space in the heart of central London, located very close to King’s Cross Station. Intimate but not in an obvious way, Scala is both small and… well… not. And as George the Poet performed, he filled the room and all sense of space and time was lost.
A preacher maybe, a spokesman certainly, an artist, a poet, a visionary, and a voice of a generation. My generation. George has been referred to as all of these things and more, but most important to note is that he is an extremely talented wordsmith. He transcends musical genres and fuses, rap with a new generation of spoken word, and layers his bars in the same tradition of the conscious hip-hop artists of old. He doesn’t just speak and he doesn’t just perform – he tells stories. The type of stories that his peers can relate to and because of that we respect his grind. Having been a contemporary of George’s at Cambridge University, I often have to pinch myself when I remember that this guy managed to build a vibrant career (divided his time between London and Cambridge – I used to see him at our beloved King’s Cross Station; performed and travelled across the UK and internationally), whilst all the while slogging it out with the rest of us in those libraries, lecture theatres, and within the walls of your bedroom at The ‘Bridge. An extra-curricular life only matched by that of Lily Cole perhaps. George’s style has come some way too. Growth is good. Tonight, I very much noted how he has mastered the art of performance. I felt like I was at a concert and found myself dancing to the rhythm of his voice as well as the music that accompanied his lyrics. So far, it seems label life has been good to him and for that I, and other fans, are pleased. He has recently dropped his debut EP, ‘The Chicken and The Egg’:
He’s also dropped a video on Vevo. Busy man.
This latest offering might be a grower for those of us used to George’s conscious style of poetry, but in saying that, the sky is the limit. The messages are the same but the audience is bigger now. Art and performance come in many different packages and as his career develops, and he experiences new things, George will continue to experiment with his work:
We might see more dancing. We might hear more music. More colours. Less grit. More grit. Only time will tell.
The fact there were many familiar faces in the crowd – old friends, new friends, faces from moments I don’t quite remember – is a testament to George’s staying power. He has a firm fanbase that has and will continue to grow along with him. As impressed as I was by George’s offerings, my jaw dropped whilst listening to the incredible voice of Jacob Banks. Really, I’ve never heard anything like it. He’s a big guy, but his voice is even bigger, living somewhere beneath the bottom most part of your gut and a punch in your chest. Unexpected. Ray Lamontagne, meets Louis Armstrong, meets Bill Withers, meets Billy Paul, Barry White and every piece of other magic in the universe. He was off as quickly as he was on but he was one of the highlights of the night for me.
Being the lover of new, unsigned, and (relatively/ totally) unknown music that I am, I also enjoyed JUCE, the girl band fronted by a cool lady called Chalin, who has landed straight from the 80s. A lady after my own heart, she embodies the spirit of Grace Kelly, Tina Turner, and various disco- funk divas from that era. Their set screamed girlpower, as did Chalin’s shadowboxing and out of this world moves. Check out their Soundcloud for more.
Now, let’s not forget Mr. JP Cooper. Although I went to see George, I was pleased to discover another one of Island Records’ newest signs. He is soulful, smooth, and from what I saw, already has a very strong and loyal fanbase. You could tell Cooper was shy, but once he started singing and playing his guitar, all inhibitions disappeared. That’s one of the many beautiful things about music. Have a listen to his EP, ‘Keep The Quiet Out’:
Nights like these leave me utterly inspired. As a writer and performer myself, I often watch my peers and those who have done it before me, or who are doing it with me, and hope I can be as good as them. Better, even. We’re all out here trying to inspire the masses like George The Poet, Akala, Nego True, Dean Atta, Sophia Thakur, Anthony Anaxagorou, Warsan Shire, Yrsa Daley-Ward and so many others. It’s hard work, but it’s a beautiful thing to see that it does come together. And that you can move from making videos in your bedroom for Youtube and writing for yourself, to electrifying a room full of people and hope at Scala in London.