My invitation to cover Niko B at the Club Academy came unexpectedly – mainly since he was due on stage just hours later. Nursing my double pint from the SU, I arrived at the academy and settled into a nice spot at the back of the room just before the warm-up. My first solo gig – weird. With a thin haze of Geek bar fumes veiling the room and the scent of Dior Sauvage at max-potency, things kicked off.
Onto the stage burst Nega Brandon, a North London artist who worked the room well. His thirty-minute set of melodic UK rap was energetic and well received by the crowd, some of which were either already fans or engaged enough to have caught onto the lyrics there and then and sung along. Whatever the case, he had people jumping. He then gave it a big ‘SIU’, said ‘Happy International Women’s Day’ and off he went. A sound warm-up.
Following a thirty-minute interval in which my airdrop was bombarded by cursed images and people asking for flake, on came Niko B to the sound of Modjo’s ‘Lady hear me tonight’. By this point, I was subsumed by the crowd and found myself being jumped on in its sweaty epicentre. I recall speaking to a fan during the break who’d gone to five-something shows from the tour and he took Niko B’s primary appeal to be in his music’s humour and I’d be inclined to agree; his tunes are cheeky, colloquial and pretty catchy. He raps lightheartedly about getting pinned down by bouncers, stainless-steel chains and circumcision – off-key subjects that place Niko B as a refreshing step aside from the seriousness that rap usually typifies. His most memorable line for me was “I wanna smoke with your dad and put spice in his spliff”.
As his is a fairly limited discography, the hour set was half made up of unreleased tracks and remixes that nonetheless still charmed the audience. His performance was solid; he turned up lively, performed his hits and said how much he loved Manchester, which was all he really needed to do. I think he invited us all to his wedding as well, so. Anyway, at some point amidst all this, Niko brought out native rap talent Nemzzz, whose brief but impactful performance of songs like ‘Elevate’ and ‘2MS’ helped to sustain the show’s tempo. It was Niko B’s staple anthems that received the strongest responses, however, with ‘Mary Berry’ and ‘Who’s That What’s That’ working as the lively finishers for the show. The lights then came on and we were directed to pick up some merch or leave.
I’d hung around for a little bit to see if I could get a brief interview but sadly to no avail. So, half-cut, I hopped on the 42 back to Fallow, made a stir fry and called it a day. All in all, a lively, cheerful Tuesday night.