Saturday, April 17, 2010

Mos Def Live At Shepherd's Bush Empire In London, UK Concert Review

As reviewed by Jasmine Phull at from Thursday night's April 15 show At Shepherd's Bush Empire London, UK.

Amidst a decadent display of red and white roses and under a flood of moody red lighting, the lyrical genius introduced himself. "My name is Yasin Dante Terrell Smith-Bey, known to many across the world as Mos Def".

It was a formal introduction that began an hour-long blaze of songs from the rapper’s newest work The Ecstatic, all the while punctuated with tunes from his earlier albums.

Donning thin braces, a cap and a fully grown beard the ‘Boogyman’ gripped an old school microphone before kicking it off with Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious-like ‘Supermagic’, laced with a winding guitar and rock ‘n roll inflexions.

With swagger and presence the hip-hop flavoured stylings continued with the Madlib-produced ‘Auditorium’, ‘Priority’ and ‘Life in Marvelous Times’. It was a show fuelled by heavy funk, hooks and samples. ‘Quiet Dog’ saw Mos Def manning a massive drum-kit; bashing out a rapturous rhythm while simultaneously rapping. It was an example of his unorthodox approach to hip hop yet left some a little bored and less than bemused.

A unanimous sea of head-nods was in full swing when classics including beat-laden ‘Mathematics’ and song ‘Hip Hop’ - with its lyrical prowess: "Speech is my hammer, bang the world into shape" - took centre stage.

Those that came to hear Mos Def circa ‘99's ‘Black on Both Sides’ were finally in their element. The veteran mused about opening a ‘24-hour karate school’ before dropping a new tune of the same name. The audience instantly took to the ravenous rhythm, excited at the prospect of an impending fifth album.

Through charm, humour and a sage-like approach, the sometime thespian, well known for his recent role in Michel Gondry’s film Be Kind Rewind, proved to be a garrulous and gracious host. "You could have been anywhere in the world, but you’re here with us".

Not one to shy away from gratitude he constantly thanked the crowd for their presence: "Thank you for spending your money and most importantly time". Yet on occasions it became gratuitous, lessening his resonance as the Mighty Mos Def; hip hop extraordinaire.

Joined only by a trusty duo of DJs, the Brooklyn MC would have better benefited from an accompanying live band; at times the stage seemed bare and his charismatic performance and surprisingly great vocal range struggled to rescue the stage from a slight lacklustre.

For someone who in the past revelled as a witty wordsmith, it seems the beat maverick has become more about the percussion - his vocals taking a back-seat. The Ecstatic showcases his trademark experimental vision in which the MC acts as an accompaniment rather than a hedonistic front-man. Mos Def has managed to champion and revitalise the rap game while maintaining artistic respect for the culture that made him who he is today; a hip-hop ambassador.

more fan shot video below.

(video courtesy of Ela1994SI & Moodkid)


  1. Were you even there? I love Mos Def but this show was awful. He kept everyone waiting for almost two hours and then when he did come on the sound was absolutely appalling. It was almost like nobody had even soundchecked. Massive, uncontrollable bass obscuring everything else. The DJs were lazy as hell, Mos himself would stop as soon as he'd just got going on a track. All in all a massively disappointing and unsatisfying evening. I paid good money to see this show but left early. That says it all really.

  2. Sorry to hear. Mos Def is really hit or miss live. It would be probably better to see a Blackstar show more. I think Mos Def's focus was his Gorillaz appearance in London right after this warm up show.

  3. That's not much comfort for us - we payed £25 each to see him basically twat around while a deaf guy did the sound. Or so it appeared. He's a great artist but I'll never go to see him again, waste of money.