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My first Mos Def show: Yasiin Bey plays J Dilla

I came across the new ‘Netflix for gigs’ app, Jukely and, as a music writer, was obviously enticed. The app serves up a decent range of gigs, from Idris Elba in Hackney to Take That at The O2, I’d place safe bets on there being ‘something for everyone’. In fact I’m pretty confident there will be at least one a week worth seeing – and this time it happened to be Yasiin Bey plays J Dilla.

I have a love/hate relationship with Dilla, my hyper sensitivity to sound means that his occasional reversed sounds and abrupt, erratic beats just fucks with me, leaving me literally panicky. Then he has these beautiful instrumentals… one of my longstanding favourite songs is So Far To Go featuring Common and D’Angelo (dream team), so basically, I really didn’t know what to expect.

It was my first time seeing Yasiin Bey (FKA Mos Def) as well, which added to the general anticipation – but before we even got to that point I saw Little Simz was supporting. She deserves an honourable mention within this because she’s a great talent and a lot of fun. Simz mocked the audience for not dancing at a gig, hyping everybody up and toying with them – she’s as fun as her music and I’m looking forward to seeing more of her.

When Yasiin Bey came out he was holding a huge bunch of roses and throwing petals to the audience – but it definitely wasn’t as pretentious as it sounds. Something about his charisma is so comfortable that it would take so much more for him to appear egotistical. I’m sure like a lot of people, I’m drawn to artists that demonstrate their relationship with music as one with respect and treat it as an art form – you can see this in him. The premise of the show as a whole is the first example of this… but it was also great to see him shouting out other artists like Little Simz and Earl Sweatshirt and even more so to see him being practically in awe of Dilla’s work while carefully intertwining his own. I honestly think that Pistola and Fall in Love (two amazing tracks) never sounded so good until combined. I need to hear it again. Can he, somebody, anybody make that happen?

A lot of the show felt like a two way interaction between Yasiin and the audience, he pulled faces mid song, spoke to us throughout, thanked us, danced and communicated with us – at one point (actually, several points) he stuck his arms out from his sides and span around in circles, like a child. He also has one of the most impressive live singing voices I’ve ever heard – which I realise is quite a grand statement but I was really struck by it. Mixing all of this with the revered production of J Dilla, a guy sporadically lighting joints in front of me and some of the most excited guys I’ve seen rapping, shouting and jumping around behind me – this was a great night.


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