GZA/Genius @ The Birmingham Ballroom, Feburary 16, 2012

 When you hear a venue entitled ‘The Birmingham Ballroom’, you expect contemporary dancing, ballet, all that fancy sh!t you see on Strictly Come Dancing. Maybe in its history it was a ballroom, well tradition is about to drastically change, because The GZA/Genius, one-third of the former group All Together Now crew, and one ninth of the juggernaut supergroup Wu-Tang Clan is coming through, and with the supporting acts in tow, the outcome would be critical.

Big ups to the DJs on set, Jam Fu, playing the best in the golden era of hip hop, and DJ Mylz, for his unique mixes and break beats. Highlights of the night and B-Boys doing their thing are found by clicking here.

Hip Hop fans in the Ballroom were treated with a barrage of supporting acts, each with half hour sets. First up, reppin’ Nottingham, Duke01 & Johnny Crump. He gave the crowd a taste of his energetic tracks such as ‘Crashing Down’, and ‘Infinite Crash Radius’. He went on to entertain the crowd by joking around that he was ‘afraid of monsters’ before going in to his ‘Monsta’ track. To find out more on Duke01, you can check out his reverbnation profile here.

Next up were Ricta & Idyllic hailing from Coventry, now residing in Birmingham. The duo brought humour and wordplay to their tracks by bringing in a cheesy pop track and then cleverly switching up to a banga. Highlight of their set was the Ol’ Dirty Bastard inspired track ‘Insane’, clearly you could hear the Wu-Tang influence in their beats and rhymes. The same was said for Duke01 whose rhymes were more on a deeper level. The duo gave away free copies of their EP ‘Bear Sick’ and their début album will be coming later this year. To find out more about this duo, their website are found here.

Sonny Jim and H.L.I. were the next supporting acts to step on to the stage. Both reppin their hometown Birmingham, they both had a hard act to follow. Although both gave stellar performances,  I think at this point the crowd were just rocking their heads patiently and respectfully before GZA come on stage. A worthy mention must go to Sonny Jim’s track ‘Buried Alive’. check those out on his reverbnation profile. H.L.I. have worked with the likes of Kashmere and Juice Aleem and their EP ‘Omniglyph’ is available now. You can check their facebook page here.

It was about 9.40pm and it the crowd were told that GZA would be on in 20 minutes, but as always with the main star, 20 minutes seemed like 20 hours, but then at 10.15pm, the lights go out, and the familiar Shogun Assassin opening quote would be heard through the speakers of the Birmingham Ballroom. The crowd is ready to hear the Words from the Genius. Then Mr Grice himself comes out opening the show with the intermission he has on the Clan’s ‘W’ album before he starts his Duel Of The Iron Mic. GZA keeps the crowd hype swinging his ‘Liquid Swords’ with tracks such as ‘Living In The World Today’, ‘Gold’ and ‘Swordsman’. A personal highlight was when he performed ‘Cold World’, and his interactive crowd participation kicks in. GZA does something I didn’t see coming, while I was recording him live, he suddenly takes the camera from me and films the crowd!!!!

…and suddenly GZA feels more and more into his element as the night goes on, taking smart phones from fans to take pics of himself, giving the fans the mic to finish his rhymes, and so one man, became nine, as the spirit of the rest of the clan was felt in the Birmingham Ballroom. Maximillion starts branching out, while successfully maintaining hype from the crowd, performing tracks from his lesser known albums such as ‘Animal Planet’, ‘Fame’, ‘Crash Your Crew’ and ‘Advanced Pawns’. It was not long until the crowd starts chanting for GZA’s most loved cousin, and so GZA tells the crowd to put up their ‘W’s, and that it stands for three things, Wu-Tang, Whitney Houston (Rest In Power) and Ol’ Dirty Bastard before going into ‘Brooklyn Zoo’ and ‘Shimmy Shimmy Ya’. I was hoping for ‘Damage’ but unfortunately it didn’t happen. One of Wu-Tang’s biggest hits, Triumph is now a sing along anthem thanks to Inspectah Deck.

…but the true highlight of the night was when GZA announces that he’s gonna take it back to the 36 Chambers…but I don’t think the crowd were prepared for this…He tells the crowd they best Proteck Ya Neck and he was gonna Bring Da Ruckus because he took the performance to the middle of the crowd! The crowd was swarming like killa bees, at the same time respectfully letting GZA have his space in the crowd. Security called GZA back to the stage but GZA actually said he ‘felt at home’, and remained in the crowd for a good while longer. Who’s gonna argue with him? He’s JUSTICE! Here he breaks down the Supreme ‘Alphabet’ and ignores whose ‘Knock Knock’ing on his door!

GZA closes the seemingly longer than 60 minute set with what better track than C.R.E.A.M. This had the crowd singing along yet exhausted from the surprise element of GZA interacting with the crowd with so much energy to rival Method Man. If there was a gripe I had, was that sometimes it sounded as if GZA’s mic was not turned up properly, as if it mattered anyway when the crowd knew his tracks word for word. Saying that the same could be said for the supporting acts but it wasn’t a problem at all for Ricta & Idyllic. To summarise, sometimes the best gigs are those in small venues with an intimate crowd. You might be dazzled by the pyros and the visuals of the more high-profile artists, but nothing beats your favourite MC showing the fans love in the most surprising of ways, especially in the case of GZA who usually stands back in a clan performance and lets Meth have all the limelight. On this night, GZA let his fans know that ‘I Gotcha Back’.

Photos taken courtesy of RePPiN 4U

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