Wretch 32 headlines at KOKO, London | Live Review

He may have been overlooked by the MOBO’s, but this past Friday (October 28) Wretch 32 was definitely a winner, wowing audiences with a spectacular performance at London’s KOKO. As the Tottenham MC’s Black & White Tour hits the capital city, the likes of Chipmunk, Example and Daley are a number of UK artists in attendance at the packed out gig. But before the main man hits the stage, up-and-coming UK singer Loick Essien takes care of warm up duties, with an energetic performance that will leave many believing the 21-year-old rising star is next in line to successfully crossover to the mainstream charts.

Dressed in a dapper leather jacket, the North-West Londoner straddles along the stage in a bubbly manner, belting songs from his upcoming debut LP Identity. Audiences are generally receptive, but it’s known hits “Love Drunk” and “How We Roll” which garner the louder response and prove Essien is one to watch for 2012.

Then a sudden pause, the lights dim and the night really gets underway. A guitar intro sees Wretch enter the stage with a confident swagger which was not so visible at his previous headlining show at XOYO sixth months prior.

The success of a number one hit song, two top ten singles and a critically and commercially successful album are visible in the rappers mannerism and stage presence – and the crowd are lapping up every second of it. And unlike many of his peers, the 26-year-old wordsmith manages to stay true to his underground roots, whilst exploring a mainstream sound in the process – creating a new sound which appeals to both pop and rap fans.

Accompanied by a live band and flashing lights, the set gets off to a radiant start, but it’s the energetic funky hit single “Unorthodox” which really gets the crowd going, as his “brother from another mother” (his words) Example joins him on stage for their collaborative hit. Fellow Brit rapper Chipmunk later graces the stage for a duet of “I’m Not The Man.” And while the guest features add pace and excite the crowds, Wretch is very much so the sole highlight of the show.

Fusing different genres (hip hop/grime/rock) together, the show exudes an intimate atmosphere, with Wretch regularly addressing the crowd – thanking fans for all their support. So while his stage confidence may have grown rapidly, Jermaine Scott remains as humble as ever.

Performing a number of songs from his debut LP Black & White, Wretch charismatically belts songs including “Don’t Be Afraid,” “Forgiveness” and the number one smash single “Don’t Go” – which fans excitedly sing along to every single word. But it’s the rapper’s encore performance of “Tractor” which really gets the crowd hysterical and proves the Brits can do it just good as good as the Yanks.