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Music Review Urban bliss with the alphabet assassins

BOB ORAM goes to an exhilarating night of incendiary rap and hip hop in Manchester

Stampede Festival
The Ritz, Manchester


BILLED as the first of its kind in Manchester, Stampede is a festival showcase for a new generation of urban music artists, alongside some already established favourites.


The promoters probably wished for a few more punters, but the predominantly white audience of mainly young men are all clearly fans of the genre and the atmosphere is great, with enough space to move comfortably around the awesome old sprung dance floor of the Ritz.


Strutting their stuff, like boxers in a ring, rap battles attract YouTube viewers in millions as artists fight it out with vocal dexterity and incredible wordplay.


The dense and implacable bass beats and impenetrable lyrics spat out at speed make some of the earlier acts less than accessible to anyone not already familiar with the songs but Lunar C, who has accumulated over eight million hits and won a “performance of the year” for Don’t Flop, is a classier act.


Playing with the FlyTipping crew, his song Mug from last year’s Jake epitomises the braggadocio of these artists, but his style also has humour and empathy and goes down really well.


But the mood definitely moves up a gear with a band who had already played the Tramlines festival earlier in Sheffield. The Moods are up for this moment and they create a shotgun wedding of hip hop, dance and rock.


Just as New Order melded New York hip hop with Manc dance rock, The Moods’ breadth of influences and vibes from around the world come together in a mix that gets stronger with every beat.


Their new song 3 Minutes is like bumping into an old best friend and Missing Peace, Inception, Atmosphere and Keep Your Powder dry follow. All are incredible, with the brass clear and emotional, the violin a vibrant accompaniment to a pulsating beat and pounding rhythm and soaring vocals and intense rap playing out like an Oscar-standard film script.


New single Carnival is the sound of the summer and Tixxy Bang guests on stage as the dance, calypso and reggae soul extravaganza is unleashed at last. POP (Profit Over People) brings it all to a glorious close.


Lowkey bounds on stage and immediately the Soundtrack to the Struggle booms out and his incredible lyrics are accompanied by the crowd singing as one.


“A product of the system I was born to destroy,” he may be but with everyone hoisting their peace signs aloft he tells us that “this is a concert with one of the best atmosphere’s ever.”


The call and response of “You might take my life but you can’t take my soul” precedes the Ritz erupting in response to the heartfelt Free, Free Palestine.


Hand on your Gun, Fire in the Booth and Voices of the Voiceless are all blistering, while Ghost of Grenfell is a powerful and emotional moment. Lowkey truly is an alphabet assassin and this is a greatest hits set that's a triumph of skill, passion and politics.


“Hip hop ain’t dead,” he spits out and the crowd chorus back: ”It's in Manchester.” It is without doubt alive and well and Mic Righteous joins Lowkey for the brilliant Revolution before his own excellent performance of a lyrically intense, clever and hugely powerful set which just about sums up what's been an exhilarating night.


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