It’s been a week since since we got back from Boom Bap Festival and we apologise for the delay in getting this online for your reading pleasure. Half the delay was recovering from the weekend, the other half was other real world priorities like employment and, more importantly, sleep. If you want a very short summary of our experience then it was incredible and you should buy a ticket for Boom Bap Festival 2016 the day it goes on sale. If you want to know what went down and why it was incredible read on in envy, or re-live the experience as the case may be, below.
We’ve kept a close eye on Boom Bap Festival since its inception. Being raised on the incredible UK rap music of the early 2000s, we were always sceptical that any festival that claimed to resurrect that passion again. Despite all the great things we had heard through the grapevine, we had never taken the step of actually attending but this year’s line up had us buzzing with excitement. Boom Bap Festival 2015 marked a new chapter in our festival experiences (head to our Facebook page to check out our full gallery of photos from the weekend). Not only is it the first primarily hip hop festival we’ve attended, we also took the unusual step of staying in a Travelodge hotel rather than opting for the authentic festival accommodation of choice: camping. Hate all you want but that bed was super comfortable, we got hot showers every morning and it was only about a 10 minute drive from the festival site. Enough of our gloating and back to our Boom Bap adventure and thorough review. Due to real world commitments and a ridiculous amount of traffic on the way, we only got to the festival site near Mildenhall at around 8pm on Friday night. By that point we had missed some of the sets we were looking forward to seeing such as Chester P‘s 5 Word Freestyle competition (Skuff won by the way), Homeboy Sandman as well Fatima and the Eglo Band. After we had cried ourselves a river and attempted to make ourselves feel better with a few lot of cheaply priced Jaegar Bombs (4 for £10 is basically free when compared to London prices), we headed to the main stage to catch Earl Sweatshirt.
Performing on the main stage and dressed like he was going for a jog on an autumn evening, Earl rapped tracks from his major label solo debut Doris as well his recently released, and rather lengthy titled, I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside: An Album by Earl Sweatshirt. There was a distinct transition from upbeat bass-heavy tracks then easing into more mellow songs such as Burgundy (or as Earl himself put it “and some other shit, you know how it goes”) but the crowd stayed transfixed throughout. Under the clear skies and easily visible stars in the Suffolk countryside, Skepta was up next. The fact that a grime artist was one of the headliners had raised some eyebrows but good music remains good music regardless of the genre and Boom Bap’s faith in the Boy Better Know artist paid off. As far as we could see the whole crowd knew the words to his well known songs such as That’s Not Me, It Ain’t Safe and lastly Shutdown which resulted in an inevitable moshpit. This was against the background of earlier that day learning of the death of one of his friends which he later recorded the song Lukey World for in dedication.
Main stage acts finished at 11pm so we headed to the Square One stage and accidentally caught the ridiculously energetic Dead Players set, watch the video for Yeah and the imagine that live. Yeah, Exactly! We ended up spending much of the evening partying the night away at Square One and even caught Edward Scissortongue and his new “Japanese conceptual artist look” as Jam Baxter later described.
However, before hitting the sack we passed through the Rhyme Pad open mic stall which Gizmo was dominating and then walked the very short distance to the Backyard stage and its Lionpulse Soundsystem. The Backyard is small but the soundsystem packs a punch and we danced under the stars to some incredible drum and bass until we could dance no longer. Boom Bap Festival fundamentally remains a celebration of hip hop culture but it still appreciates the fact that a bit of grime, jungle and D&B never hurt anyone and complements the daytime acts perfectly.
The first set we managed to catch on the Saturday was UK rap heavyweights Verb T and Fliptrix at the Dead Beat Disco stage, they weren’t the first acts on stage but the hangover from the previous night’s shenanigans was in full effect. Both performed their solo songs such as Verb’s impeccable I Remain as well as Fliptrix’s more recent Polyhymnia and older Theory Of Rhyme material. Unsurprisingly if you’ve ever seen these guys live before but the pair had the crowd rhyming along to all their songs and ensured their performance doubled up as a workout considering how much work they put in. Followed straight after came the duo of Kashmere and Dr Zygote otherwise known as Strange U. With the sun beaming down and burning us to a crisp (yes, we’re those people that always forget the sunscreen), we headed to Mr Thing on the main stage with Inja taking over master of ceremony duties. Mr Thing requires no introduction and you should already be aware of his deejaying prowess but just imagine him playing a set in the sunshine while you kick back and relax on the grass under clear skies. Admittedly the heat had us all a bit sedated but as far as perfect days go Saturday would be a hard one to beat.
“Where’s my energy crew? When I say energy crew at this time of day I mean all of you nodding your heads” – Inja.
What’s true of any festival worth going to is that you end up discovering new musicians and artists that you would have never otherwise come across; for us at Boom Bap Festival it was The Age of L.U.N.A. Consisting of Butch Arkas (rapper), Kyote Noir (rapper), Daniella Thomas (singer) and NK-OK (producer), Noisey probably best described the fusion of sounds that The Age of L.U.N.A fuse together:
“Think about soulful music – songs by Erykah Badu, Tribe Called Quest, Fela Kuti; tracks that’ve been infused with unrelenting energy for life. Combine those earthly influences with a British accent and you’ve got The Age Of L.U.N.A.”
Following our new discovery came a long list of artists that not only were we looking forward to seeing but also delivered the goods in a big way. The main stage hosted Lewis Parker, Dirty Dike, Jam Baxter, Jeru The Damaja and ending The Four Owls. Lewis Parker has paid his dues, there’s no doubt about it, and his live set didn’t disappoint but our simple brains still can’t connect that quintessentially british rap name that we grew up listening to with the American accent. Dirty Dike was, well… himself. Bars and banter. If you know his music and his persona, you know it was a jokes and energetic show. Jam Baxter was very much the same, we were surprised he had any fuel left in the tank after the energy he put into the Dead Players set the night before. Performing tracks from his most recent …So We Ate Them Whole project fully-produced by Chemo including our personal favourite Leash. Baxter not only delivers complex rhyme schemes and metaphors, he delivers them with flows that astound not only on record but live on stage too. Jeru, whom we have seen live previously, is as charismatic as ever on stage and delivered classics such as Come Clean, Ya Playing Yourself and Da Bichez with nothing less than maximum crowd participation being acceptable to the New York City veteran.
Before we danced into the early hours again at the Backyard stage, we caught UK rap supergroup The Four Owls ripping up the stage. Verb T, Fliptrix, Leaf Dog and BVA all have their own individual strengths as artists and coming together as a quartet unleashes a new beast. Largely performing songs from Natural Order, the group demonstrated why they have become a byword for UK rap. The project was fully produced in-house by the ever impressive Leaf Dog with the exception of Think Twice that was produced by DJ Premier. Never a bunch to sit on their laurels, The Four Owls continue to push the envelope in terms of both impressive live performances and on wax (or CD/digital depending on what takes your fancy). Before the night was out, the Boom Bap Festival organisers got dragged on stage pretty much kicking and screaming and got a huge deserved thank you from the artists on stage and the crowd.
Sunday started of rather sad as the end was almost in sight and we had enjoyed such a great time up until that point we didn’t want it to end. Ocean Wisdom quickly put an end to any negative thoughts as he absolutely ripped the Dead Beat Disco stage a new one. He first came to our attention when Edward Scissortongue tweeted a random video of a song (Walkin’) produced by a Dirty Dike, from that point we were telling anyone that would listen about Wisdom. In relative terms, compared to some of the other acts appearing at Boom Bap, Ocean Wisdom is a new kid on the block but his stage presence and crowd interaction is one of a seasoned professional. Despite partying too hard and almost losing his voice, he still delivered what was an incredible set.
The Rhyme Pad open mic competition on the main stage was one of my favourite parts of the festivals. The sunshine was beaming down, not a cloud in the sky, beautiful graffiti all around us and chilling with like-minded people listening to talented rappers demonstrating their abilities… what could be better? Oracy deservedly won the competition in the end, as decided by the crowd, but as incredibly cheesy as it sounds we felt like winners because it was such an enjoyable afternoon. Rum Committee came on stage looking like a bunch of “rapey cunts” (Stig Of The Dump‘s words, not ours) wearing balaclavas but they absolutely owned that stage for the 45 minutes they were on.
Seeing Skinnyman rapping alongside Chester P rhyming on stage together almost brought a tear to our eyes and was easily one of the highlights of the year for us. Growing up in the era of Mud Family and Task Force in inner city London and then being able to see two living legends of the game on sage together was something special. Skinnyman was performing Council Estate of Mind for its 10th anniversary (yes it has really been that long and yes that does mean you’re getting old, we feel your pain) but unfortunately had to skip some tracks and cram in the rest due to time constraints. Nonetheless, for a gentleman that’s now a granddad he still jumps around the stage like he’s in his teens performing Fuck The Hook. Highlighting the narrative of Council Estate of Mind, he also took some time out to talk about the travesty that is the rate of youth detention in the UK. Huge thank you to Skinny for all the great music you made for us in our teenage years and those hilarious scenes from Tower Block Dreams.
From one special spectacle into another, the Skitz showcase featured Rodney P, Leaf Dog, Buggsy, Mr Ti2bs, Chester P and Split Prophets. Problem Child followed and immediately took the energy levels up a few gears (sidenote: track one on their latest album is called Energy). Combining the various sounds of hip hop, dubstep and grime that they’ve masters really catered to the crowd at the main stage. You wouldn’t really expect any less from Dabbla, Dubbledge and Illaman; they certainly know how to rock a party. Despite their aggressive music, the boys are rather generous because they threw lots of copies of their Confessions of a Normal Human Being into the crowd. Conveniently, one landed at our feet and we’re listening to it as we write this. We did end up missing Ratking unfortunately due to the fact that we needed nourishment but the chicken curry we got from one of the several impressive food stalls was the best festival food we’ve ever consumed. Huge love to the lady you basically kept filling the plate until we said stop, you’re a hero in our eyes.
We did make it back to the stage for the now world-famous Foreign Beggars. It’s been over a decade since their classic Asylum Speakers album dropped. As Orifice Vulgatron, Metropolis and DJ Nonames went through performing the songs it was clear it has not aged a day and still sounds fresh as ever. They unfortunately didn’t do all the songs but the logistics of that are impossible considering that Ed Skrein, who rapped on Mind Out, is now a famous actor. Seeing, with our own two eyes, Skinnyman and Foreign Beggars in the flesh performing Hold On will forever be an incredible memory. Not only did they drop their Noisia produced songs to get the party ridiculously crazy, they also filled plastic bottles with vodka and donated to the crowd to ensure they enjoyed themselves. What a lovely bunch of people. After also got pretty much all the British rappers that had been on stage earlier to rap on stage again. Truly an all-star cast and an audiovisual experience to behold. We really couldn’t have asked for a more impressive ending to our weekend in the sun.
Right at the beginning of this review we hinted at our apprehension that we would expect too much and as a young festival it would fail to deliver. However, Boom Bap Festival was truly an incredible festival experience on multiple levels and we’ll try to explain why. Firstly, at £90 for the amount of live music you see is an absolute bargain and on top of that camping is free. The 2000 people who attended were the nicest bunch of people that we’ve had the pleasure of partying with in a field. The relatively small nature of the festival also made it much easier to go from stage to stage as we frankly tried to catch different sets. The security presence was there but none of them got in the way of the festival-goers having a great time (this point cannot be said for all festivals). The food was very good and like the drinks, it was all reasonably priced. The graffiti on show was mind-blowing, there were pieces and dubs up from some legendary names in the game and Boom Bap had very sensibly put up boards for them to showcase their art. All of the above plus the incredible weather, which admittedly the organisers don’t have any control over, made Boom Bap Festival 2015 truly a memorable experience and gave us the warm and fuzzy feeling you get when you listen to that one rap album that defined/defines your teenage years. We’ll definitely be going again in 2016 and we hope you join us there too but in the meantime head over to our Facebook albums (and hit like) to see what we saw.
Thank you Boom Bap Festival.