KREPT & KO­NAN

Duo ce­ment their place at UK rap’s top ta­ble with storm­ing show.

Q (UK) - - Contents - GE­ORGE GARNER

Lon­don’s premier grime duo re­mind every­one why they be­came Lon­don’s premier grime duo.

KREPT & KO­NAN O2 FO­RUM KENTISH TOWN, LON­DON WED­NES­DAY, 21 MARCH, 2018

Karl “Ko­nan” Wil­son is stressed out. He may not look it, sat per­fectly still in a makeshift bar­ber’s chair in Kentish Town Fo­rum’s dress­ing room, but he is. It’s less than an hour be­fore show­time and both he and Casyo “Krept” John­son are pro­cess­ing the fact that a month of plan­ning is not go­ing to plan. As he re­ceives his pre­ci­sion cut, Wil­son tells Q how he’s spent re­cent weeks try­ing to ex­tract vis­ual ideas from his head and get them onto three huge video screens that will curve around them on­stage tonight. You might say he ex­er­cised some fairly un­ortho­dox forms of HR man­age­ment to make it hap­pen. “I had to hold one of the graphic de­sign­ers in my house hostage,” he grins. “I had him there for two days. Lit­er­ally, he couldn’t go nowhere un­til he was fin­ished!” That they ar­rived today only to find the fin­ished thing doesn’t look ex­actly how they wanted was not the start they hoped for on the first of a sold-out, two-night stand at the Fo­rum. At least one prob­lem the pair haven’t got today is wan­ing pop­u­lar­ity. The view from their dress­ing room is telling: the queue snakes from the front doors and ex­tends out of view down a side road. This is a long way from where they started. The stress in the room soon dif­fuses as they rewind the years and live per­for­mance. “It threw us right in the deep end,” says John­son, slouch­ing deep into the dress­ing room’s sofa as he

re­mem­bers the unique way he tried to win the Glaswe­gian crowd over. “No one knew who we were, I was so under pres­sure I started giv­ing out money…” “Yeah!” laughs Wil­son. “He gave out money, like, ‘Win some money if you come on­stage!’” They don’t need to re­sort to those tac­tics th­ese days. Krept & Ko­nan have long ce­mented them­selves in the elite tier of the UK rap scene. When they first ap­peared in Q in 2015 ahead of their la­bel de­but, Long Way Home, they had al­ready seen their sel­f­re­leased 2013 mix­tape Young Kingz break a Guinness World Record by en­ter­ing the Top 20 while they were still un­signed. Yet there was tragedy at the heart of their story, too. In 2011, in­trud­ers broke into Wil­son’s home – ow­ing to a per­sonal ven­detta – and killed his step­fa­ther. Both Wil­son and his mother were present. “My house was a mur­der scene,” he ob­served grimly to Q. Where they are now in 2018 couldn’t stand in starker con­trast. Video woes aside, the pair – boast­ing a per­fect equi­lib­rium of hu­mil­ity and self-be­lief – are on a high. Last year they re­leased not one, but two mix­tapes on the same day: 7 Days cap­tur­ing them at their most ag­gres­sive, 7 Nights ad­ven­tur­ously ex­plor­ing an R&B sound. Th­ese Fo­rum shows mark the light­ing of a long fuse to­wards big­ger shows later this year. “This is a cel­e­bra­tion of the mix­tapes,” says John­son. “We’re not even rap­ping on one of them, it’s R&B singing and that still man­aged to go to Num­ber 8, and 7 Days went to Num­ber 6. This is a cel­e­bra­tion of the fact we even had the balls to do that, pull it off and that the fans love both projects.” “We’re al­ways try­ing to prove we can do ev­ery­thing,” he adds. “We can make tunes for the girls, we can make tunes for the mandem, we can do grime, we can do rap – there’s no type of song we can’t do.” Less than one hour – and two fresh hair­cuts – later, the pair prove that in em­phatic fash­ion. The show starts with a 30- sec­ond count­down on the video screen, as footage of their 2014 MOBO win is sound­tracked by the Cham­pi­ons League theme mu­sic. What fol­lows is not a seden­tary af­fair. The most strik­ing thing about Krept & Ko­nan’s live show is the sharp­ness of their lyrics and the un­mit­i­gated fe­roc­ity of their de­liv­ery. An open­ing one-two of On My Life and Told You is the per­fect demon­stra­tion, see­ing the duo pass the lyri­cal ba­ton while ag­gres­sively stalk­ing the stage. Later in the evening, Ko­nan de­liv­ers his breath­less solo freestyle Last Night In LA, and even man­ages to make a ref­er­ence to Toblerone sound un­nerv­ing. The duo’s taste for omi­nous sound­scapes only serves to ac­cen­tu­ate

“WE CAN MAKE TUNES FOR THE GIRLS, TUNES FOR THE MANDEM, WE CAN DO GRIME, WE CAN DO RAP. THERE’S NO TYPE OF SONG WE CAN’T DO.” CASYO “KREPT” JOHN­SON

the in­tense at­mos­phere. Yet for all their icy stares, of­ten nei­ther can cam­ou­flage their smiles on­stage.

This speaks vol­umes about the reaction of their crowd. Bol­stered by John­son’s tire­less appeals for more “En­ergy! En­ergy! En­ergy!”, the Fo­rum is per­pet­u­ally whipped up into a state of mosh­pit frenzy, no more so than during the deaf­en­ing bass blasts of Don’t Waste My Time. Some of Krept & Ko­nan’s best punch­lines and quips tonight aren’t even delivered by them, with Freak Of The Week’s tongue-incheek show­boat­ing, “Have you ever ate McDon­ald’s on a G4?” com­ing from the crowd. Equally as im­pres­sive is the afore­men­tioned video dis­play. Not only does it pul­verise the eyes, it’s also im­bued with per­son­al­ity as footage darts from the Lon­don ri­ots of 2011, to Theresa May laugh­ing ma­ni­a­cally, and even The Simp­sons’ Chief Wig­gum. It makes for an as­sault on the senses, and this is where their ma­noeu­vre into R&B makes so much sense. In ex­plor­ing a new sound, their live show has a new di­men­sion. As such, when­ever pro­ceed­ings threaten to over­dose on testos­terone, they wisely pull things back and slide into a groove via serene gems such as Wrongs and Ride For You. It might not be as cap­ti­vat­ing as hear­ing them de­liver what John­son de­scribed preshow as “bars, bars, an­ni­hi­la­tion, bars” but the crowd are in full voice for th­ese mo­ments. The only down­side is the setlist ca­su­al­ties the new focus cre­ates. AWOL tonight are some of their most poignant songs, be it Roses deal­ing with a friend’s bat­tle with leukaemia, or John­son’s solo song Cold Sum­mer, which tack­les reli­gious rad­i­cal­ism. Few would have com­plaints tonight though, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing the in­flux of guest ap­pear­ances, in­clud­ing ris­ing R&B singer Hud­son East and North Lon­don rap­pers MoS­tack and Abra Cadabra, the gruff stylings of the lat­ter su­per­charg­ing Rob­bery Remix. Still, they save the best un­til sec­ondto-last. For their penul­ti­mate act, they wel­come Stor­mzy on­stage for the elec­tri­fy­ing Ask Flipz. As they criss­cross the stage to­gether in a blur of en­ergy, it’s the mo­ment of the night. “Al­right, lis­ten to me,” says Stor­mzy, ad­dress­ing the crowd af­ter­wards. “Th­ese are le­gendary brothers, they’re very, very im­por­tant to me… my fuck­ing big brothers!” Af­ter that trib­ute, Krept & Ko­nan close by giv­ing the hyp­no­tis­ing strains of slow-mo­tion an­them Wo Wo Wo an en­ergy in­jec­tion with Wil­son stage­div­ing into the front row and con­fetti stream­ing across the venue. Ear­lier in the night, be­fore all this chaos un­folded, Q asked the pair if they felt they had re­ceived the re­spect they feel they de­serve. “I don’t feel that we do, man,” replied Wil­son. “Un­less we’re in peo­ple’s faces, they for­get. Peo­ple just jump on trends of what’s go­ing on now. You should just al­ways re­mem­ber us. I feel like every time you talk about UK ur­ban mu­sic – pe­riod – you can’t for­get us.” “I would agree with that,” nod­ded John­son. “I’m ob­vi­ously bi­ased, but our con­tri­bu­tion to where UK mu­sic is at today has played a big part.” Bi­ased or not, during tonight’s show those state­ments man­i­fest them­selves as fact.

Ko­nan the bar­ber-ian: (left) Wil­son gets a back­stage trim; (right) John­son and Wil­son stand proud.

“Just my size!”: Casyo “Krept” John­son keeps abreast of his au­di­ence.

He is risen! The Kentish Town crowd plays sup­port act to Wil­son.

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