Originally published on AltReading on 27th August 2015
I was pretty convinced that I saw an ark coming down Norcot Hill towards my bus stop last Wednesday night, it turns out it was just a regular number 17 bus with a driver who actually resembled Noah. It seemed within a short space of time that it had been raining for forty days and forty nights.
The weather didn’t prevent me from going to the Turtle to see two high quality hip-hop acts performing on such a high-profile musical platform provided by the mighty BBC. The acts were an outstanding collective called OSP which stands for ‘Only Speak Positive’ and a lyrical technician of the local hip-hop scene respectively known as Tanch.
I was under the impression that the gig had already started by the time I entered the Turtle. What signalled this assumption was that a round of applause was given to Tanch who was on stage. It wasn’t until the humble artist thanked the small crowd in attendance for their appreciation and informed them that was just the ‘soundcheck’.
A few moments later the Turtle was busy with supporters and friends of the performers, who were closely followed by a mixture of casual and regular midweek punters for the Turtle’s BBC Introducing night.
Tanch strolled on to the stage accompanied by members of his Network Band which included Marcus Data-Scales, Smiley Smuggler, and DuVall Clarke who not only plays the guitar, but is also one of the best vocalists around not to have graced the national TV stage of The X-Factor or The Voice, yet!
The crowd greeted Tanch and company with a loud round of applause signalling that the performance was about to commence. I patiently waited for an official host to open up the proceedings, however I learned that this was the standard format for these gigs, to not have any official representation from BBC Introducing in attendance.
Tanch took responsibility of introducing the crowd to the night, and advised everyone to virtually ‘strap in tight for an emotional rollercoaster of a ride’. He jumped straight into the thought provoking lyrics of ‘Live Fast, Die Young’ which was very lyrically reminiscent to me of Jamiroquai’s ‘Too Young To Die’. We were then taken through some rapid twists and turns as he progressed at a rapid yet comfortable tempo through his set of twelve songs.
We reached the halfway point of our descent up this emotional rollercoaster, the brakes were calmly put on for Tanch to catch his breath and for Smiley Smuggler to step to Tanch the chance to take a brief interlude. Once he regrouped he informed the crowd to be thankful for the fact that we are breathing and we’re all lucky individuals, and he paid homage to his OSP brethren Esa Kwame for assisting him in producing his first track twelve years ago.
The performance was beginning to take a physical and mental toll on Tanch as displayed in the very heartfelt lyrics from ‘Weight of the World’ which was more of a home-grown version of ‘Stan’ by Eminem. Everyone witnessing the performance felt the words from this song, in particular Tanch who has no shame in displaying his emotions.
The final song from Tanch was the sing-a-long, foot tapping catching melody of ‘No Money’ which is what Tanch was probably referring to when he jumped off the stage forgetting about the loose change in his pockets. This proved to me that the stage at the Turtle was not big enough as everyone who weren’t in attendance had been done a strong injustice for not witnessing this unique performance, which raises the question “why isn’t Tanch on the BBC Introducing stage this year at Reading and Leeds?” This performance proved that his is more than ready.
The gauntlet had well and truly been laid down for OSP who practically preach positivity and this was physically displayed with a ritual group embrace before the start of their set. And then Esa Kwame, J Blackz, Silqe and the OSP spin doctor DJ Subject took their places on stage, and politely welcomed the already hyped crowd to their performance before launching into their friendship and wisdom anthem ‘3 Man Plan’.
‘Message’ followed shortly in the set which featured in July’s Alt Reading ‘5 Tracks You Need to Hear’ feature from with the vocal assistance of the Network band member Smiley Smuggler.
We witnessed a lot of synced dancing, and some very quick witted banter between Esa Kwame and Silque before some very conscious and thought provoking lyrics from ‘Blacklisted’, followed by ‘Perspective’ which featured the vocals of Du’vall Clarke. Up next was ‘Island’ which was a very up-tempo hip-hop track which was very reminiscent of the early 90s UK hip hop sound from the likes of the London Posse and Black Twang, and the trio were joined on stage by local rhymist G Ezra Small.
Next up was a surprise and spontaneous addition to OSP’s running order, a word freestyle segment where Esa requested five words from the audience for Silqe to conquer up a creative rhyme with; this was the best audience participation segment that I have witnessed at a gig in Reading for a very long time. The excellent freestyling from Silqe went smoothly into the penultimate song of OSP’s set ‘It’s Alright’.
The final song of OSP’s set ‘For My People’ loosen up individuals in the audience including the casual and regular midweek Turtle drinkers who moved closer to the stage during the double header hip hop set.
History was certainly made at this gig, proving that certain genres of music do not attract ‘the wrong crowd’ but a positive gathering of like-minded artists and individuals appreciating that music doesn’t have to be pigeon-holded, it’s all about a certain feeling, and not a particular sound.
Pictures provided by Clarisse Photography