A sombre dirge arises from the crowd and the mood rises again, this time from joyous to heartfelt. The emotion is pure, the moment is blessed. It is the worst song of the night and none of this is Loyle Carner’s fault. He couldn’t stop it even if he wanted to. It’s not his fault Happy Birthday is one of the least happy sounding tunes you could imagine. As we close, slightly incoherent from the rush of adrenaline, from shouting too loud, the tear in his eye twists and twirls in a cacophony of shock, horror and foam. From the side of the stage a fire extinguisher appears dragging behind it half of the support act, liquid pouring forth from its nozzle to drench our new hero. Behind me balloons float across an expanse of raised arms and party poppers launch themselves optimistically at the ceiling. It’s Loyle’s birthday and the party has come to Brighton.
He deserves it as well, this handsome, scrawny, bouncing heap of hip-hop madness. For the last hour he has flung himself at this crowd – his first sell-out by the sea – blending anarchy with adroitness, a showman mastering his craft. Between songs, as we all catch our breath, a bewildered disbelief flickers across his face as he realises that, actually, this is really, really fucking happening.
Loyle Carner is the next big star of UK hip-hop, of this I have no doubt. He may be boom-bap but he doesn’t carry a gun or call anybody a ho’ because for a start his mum would probably batter him (she’s somewhere out there in the crowd, of course) but also because that’s just not his way. He tells us a story about he last time he got in a fight (after spending all night repeatedly telling us not to fight). Some bloke had said that all of his songs were about the same thing: his family. I guess the startlingly good BFG would be one example:
But Loyle isn’t a fighter. This is an isolated events of which he’s clearly not proud. It would also be a vast miscalculation to presume that the only thing he has to talk about are his family. Nestling amongst the beautifully broken beats of his various collaborators (including Rebel Kleff, Kiko Bun & Tom Misch) lurks a witty and observant lyricist. He doesn’t do a capella he does poems. Take, for example, Ain’t Nothing Changed a paean to all things student, including loans, dropped across some languid jazz horns:
Before he leaves, shivering, soaked to the bone and ebullient he slots in his last single, a love song to the lost hip-hop of a previous era, a song that should launch a thousand Saturday nights:
You can catch all thing Loyle at his website. His latest record graces the A side of October’s Skewed Quiff which you can catch here:
p.s. Apologies for the terrible pun