Shout hip-hop hooray

It’s a rap bat­tle at Tate Mod­ern to­mor­row for as­pir­ing MCs,

Evening Standard - West End Final Extra - - Going Out - says Sa­muel Fish­wick

DROP the mic — then pick it up again: Hip Hop Karaoke is back. If there’s one glo­ri­ously bling sil­ver lin­ing to find in 2018, it’s the fact that this long-run­ning Lon­don in­sti­tu­tion has made its way to the in­es­timable sur­round­ings of Tate Mod­ern, in the Ter­race Bar.

“I can’t be­lieve they let us in,” says founder and DJ Rob Pursey, who has been run­ning the event since 2005, when it was first a monthly event, and lat­terly a weekly one at The So­cial in Lit­tle Port­land Street (it’s now at The Queen of Hox­ton). “It’s a pos­i­tive en­vi­ron­ment, whether you know 4,000 rap songs or four lines,” he says.

Ev­ery­one’s wel­come — HHK has moved its way from Glas­ton­bury to the Wilder­ness Fes­ti­val, and even popped up among the Cor­byn faith­ful at this year’s in­au­gu­ral Labour Live fes­ti­val (“Hip Hop Karaoke with Unite” in­vited pun­ters to “come and join Len McCluskey and the crew”). “We’re a broad church,” in­sists Pursey — even Iain Dun­can Smith can rap the first few lines of Eminem’s Lose Your­self.

There’s a huge list of clas­sics and lesser­known num­bers to choose from, and all songs are help­fully rated for rhyming dif­fi­culty. It’s a slid­ing scale here: Dizzee Ras­cal’s Bonkers is one star (the in­stru­men­tal is ex­tended — be­ware); Naughty By Na­ture’s Hip-Hop Hooray is a two-star rat­ing (the rap­ping is hard but the cho­rus saves you); A Tribe Called Quest’s Sce­nario is up at three (al­beit when done solo...).

Celebrity par­tic­i­pants have in­cluded Wretch 32, Daniel Bed­ing­field and Ra­dio 1’s Matt Ed­mond­son, who shot a doc­u­men­tary about the even­ing. “We’ve grown with hip-hop,” says Pursey. “When we started it was pop­u­lar, but it’s be­come even more pop­u­lar. Teenagers who grew up lis­ten­ing to Dr Dre have now reached karaoke ma­tu­rity in their 20s.”

The for­mat is sim­ple: ta­bles to sit on, a stage to rap on. And there’s a his­tory of ro­mance here. “We had an amaz­ing mo­ment when some­one per­formed Com­mon’s The Light on stage, and then got down on his knee and pro­posed,” says Pursey. “Usu­ally we have a rule about not freestyling but we let it go on that oc­ca­sion.” Stars are born here. At Wilder­ness this year, in front of a crowd of 2,000 peo­ple, a 12-yearold named Rui “shuf­fled on stage ner­vously be­fore ab­so­lutely slay­ing a per­for­mance of Eminem ‘Just Lose It’.” The crowd called him back on for an en­core. This week­end it could be you.

X Fac­tor: am­a­teur rap­pers at Hip Hop Karaoke, in­spired by Dizzee Ras­cal, be­low

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