Will rounds up the latest news in the world of Nerdcore Hip-Hop into a bite-sized easy to digest weekly review. Tours, gigs, albums, news and rumours, this is your one-stop Hip-Hop Hooray!
This edition is a little different as I review Mc Lars’ recent headline show in London which included support from Malibu Shark Attack, Bee Mike See and a last ever live performance from Akira The Don.
Live Review | MC Lars | Akira The Don | Malibu Shark Attack | Bee Mike See | London May 19th
Each spring MC Lars graces the shores of the UK for a series of headline club shows and appearances at the three day Slam Dunk Festival, and each year I ensure I catch the London leg of the club tour, not just to enjoy Lars’ set, but as much for the acts he brings with him from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
As with last year, the London show took place at Surya, an intimate venue on the Pentonville Road a stones throw from the rapidly developing centre of King’s Cross, part of the capital that hosts the British Library as well as the sites currently under construction that will house the Francis Crick Institute (Europe’s Largest Scientific Research Centre) and Google’s UK headquarters. It makes perfect sense that a nerd rap show should take place here. And since I work at the heart of King’s Cross it took me no time to make the short walk to the club ensuring I was the first punter through the door. This afforded me the opportunity to catch a glimpse of Malibu Shark Attack‘s sound check which was fed onto a screen in the ground floor bar from the basement performance area. Shortly after Atlanta based rapper Tribe One appeared in the bar. Following a brief introduction he gave me a bear hug and I bought him a beer. You have to appreciate the nerdcore community, there’s so much love.
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I’ve been a fan of Tribe One since the collaborative EP he put out with Adam Warrock back in 2011 titled Paper Cutters & Dangling Headphones, in particular the track Bipolar which samples Where Is My Mind by Pixies. In person he’s a big presence, much taller than I expected, warm and welcoming. We talked a little about what’s going on, the tour so far and this new international band he’s involved with, Malibu Shark Attack. There’s a self titled album from the band fresh out this month which I’ll be dropping a review for shortly, but for the tour Tribe One has teamed up with the project’s guiding force, Rocky O’Reilly, who has enlisted the assistance of Ciara Donnelly aka Yellowbridge and the artist known as Bee Mick See as a touring band. They themselves dub this association ‘touring smart‘ as Bee Mick See accompanied by Yellowbridge form not only half of this band but the opening act for the evening too.
Before long I was chatting with the whole band. Last year MC Lars’ main support was Dual Core, a duo consisting of one half from America and the other from the UK. There’s a similar dynamic this year as I discovered that Tribe One from the states hooked up with his bandmates from Belfast only the Thursday before this gig, some five days ago. And yet they’re all relaxed in each other’s company and mingle around whilst I got to know Rocky O’Reilly. He’s chatty, really chatty, and before long he’s relayed his past to present at breakneck speed whilst remaining utterly engaging. Having not laid hands on the album at this point I was fascinated to learn that amongst many other artist that have contributed to the record Tim Wheeler of Ash is involved on more than one track.
All the while Akira The Don is flitting too and fro getting his merch table set up, I spoke with him briefly last year too though then he was there to enjoy the night, this year he’s on the line-up to perform his final ever show. As the the clock ticked closer to the start of the show MC Lars appeared for the first time since my arrival. I’ve spoken to Lars on each occasion that he’s played the UK for the last four or five years, on most occasions only briefly as he’s always in demand, but on one occasion for a full length interview. I certainly don’t expect him to remember me each time, and yet, after a moment to search his memory it clicked and he was as humble and personable as ever. We made our way down for the opener, Bee Mick See.
Bee Mick See
The opening act appears to be a solo project. The titular artist was born in Oregon in the US but moved with his family to Belfast, he uses this moment in his life as fodder for his writing. He produces beats and raps mostly with comedy permeating his lyrics whilst on occasion touching on the seriousness of life. He’s joined by Yellowbridge who informs the healthy sized audience (for so early in the night) that she’s really a folk singer/songwriter. You can hear it in her melodic vocal delivery too, yet she fills the hip-hop shoes very easily with her terrific natural talent. She’s small in physical stature but her voice is full-bodied and she exhibits wonderful range along with an endearing and funny presence, it came as little surprise to discover later that she was a contestant in the Irish version of The Voice (Seriously, click the link). Bee Mick See is crazy with energy, taking members of the crowd and swirling them around ensuring that by the end of the set everyone was engaged and enjoying themselves.
Malibu Shark Attack
After a quick change over Bee Mick See and Yellowbridge attend to their next duties as one half of the live version of Malibu Shark Attack. As much as I love MC Lars, I have seen him perform more times that most other mainstream or indie bands/artists, so it’s this act that I’m most hyped to check out. Rocky takes the left of the stage armed with a guitar. As a former axe-man I note that he’s a lefty. Next to him is Tribe One who is literally towering above me, his hands as big as my head, with the afore mentioned Yellowbridge taking up vocal duties next to him and Bee Mick See adding instrumentation with a midi keyboard to complete the line-up.
They open with the only song I know at this point, Better Off As Friends. I played it on The Unheard Nerd Mixtape podcast recently and it’s been stuck in my head ever since. Blending indie rock with electro and hip-hop the whole set is performed with confidence, light-heartedness and warmth. Tribe One fills out the gaps between songs with nerdy stories about how he wanted to be Batman as a kid but suffered a crisis of confidence having completed a homework assignment on what you wanted to do when you grew up. He’d drawn out schematics for the Batcave and planned exactly which utility would fill each spot in his utility belt. But when all the other kids rocked up with ideas of being a fireman or doctor he threw his plans away and hastily drew up something more conventional. The story is told through the song Doing It Wrong. His rap delivery is incredible, he spits out lyrics so fast and with such precision that I honestly watched on in awe at times.
It’s hard to believe that five days ago this band had never performed together. A sense of camaraderie was evident and their crowd interaction was spot-on, particularly in the chant along Yo Into New York. Earlier in the evening Rocky had told me he had plans to put together a UK and US touring band so that he and Tribe One could flip the Atlantic divide and perform their songs in years to come. It’s logistically a tall ask but if they succeed and you get the chance? Do not miss Malibu Shark Attack. They are for me this year’s greatest surprise and the album ranks as highly as Grammar Club’s Bioavailable from last year. And I frickin’ loved that release.
Akira The Don
A far edgier prospect all-round, this was an unscheduled final live show from Akira The Don. If you follow the music news on this site you’ll know that ATD is bringing about an end to this musical journey. He hadn’t had plans for a farewell show but when MC Lars emailed him about bolstering the line-up for tonight he went with it. As a result the performance wasn’t polished. ATD openly admitted that he hadn’t rehearsed the set which was an ad-hock affair backed by his DJ, Jack Nimble, who would throw beats out one after another leaving ‘The Don to fill in the lyrics. The set developed as it went with decisions on how many verses to perform and which song should be next being discussed as part of the performance and entertainment.
What the audience ended up with was a mix of some of ATD’s best loved songs presented in a raw and honest fashion. The stark difference between Malibu Shark Attack’s up-beat, sugary vibe and Akira’s boxer-like delivery was jarring at first but before long the crowd were warmed to it and heartily belted out their parts on songs like Thanks For All The Aids.
Akira The Don is moving his family to the US. I spoke with him and a little later to his better half who both affirmed that it feels like the right thing to do at this point in their lives. ATD will open a club with a business partner and focus his musical efforts on the Midnitemen, his latest project. It feels like a loss for the UK and for fans of his music. But for those who witnessed the last ever Akira The Don gig? We’ll always have that moment.
By the time Lars took to the stage the club was full and thoroughly warmed up. Lars’ fan-base is loyal and enthusiastic, a reflection of the man himself who entertains without fail. On these club dates he utilises just his laptop and a puppet of a raven to get the room bouncing and more. At one point Lars orchestrated a mosh pit with willing participants swirling the stage front raising the energy levels and temperature a notch more. His set consisted of fan-favourites as well his new track about The Simpsons character Hans Moleman from his forthcoming new album. Audience participation felt more like Lars was involving his friends than feeling any need to win over anyone in the crowd. For This Gigantic Robot Kills he recruits some participants to skank on stage. His freestyle section is always fun. The crowd hold up objects they have upon their person and he incorporates them into his lyrics on the spot.
It’s been ten years since MC Lars began this musical adventure and he’s got performing honed to a fine craft. He still appears to enjoy every second, he takes the time to interact, to thank those that help him in even a small way and he never gives less than 100% when performing. It’s no wonder that he’s built a fan-base that adore him. But as mentioned before and without ever taking credit for it, he provides more than all that.
If it wasn’t for Lars I would probably never have got to meet Int80 of Dual Core last year or Tribe One this year. They’re artists that I admire, whose songs I enjoy, whose music I buy because I love this nerd music scene so much, but Lars enables them to visit the UK, for people like me to actually meet a small proportion of the artists I respect so much. Lars still catches flack for comments made years ago on the internet. People who believe he dissed the community somehow. It’s complete rubbish, there are few in the nerd rap scene that do more than Lars to promote the nerd rap scene and the proof is evident on a night like tonight. For that I will always respect the man and I will always endeavour get to at least one show whenever he’s here.
MC Lars is recording much of his new album the Zombie Dinosaur LP here in the UK. More news on that as and when it drops.