Riz MC, Fabric, London

Tom Mendelsohn

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The Independent Culture

Riz MC is not your typical rapper. Oxford-educated, enjoying a burgeoning acting career – he was in Four Lions, you know, he's obviously a cut above. Tonight, he's promised to give what he calls "a groundbreaking high concept live show and trans-media online experience".

The show kicks off in a blast of dry ice and a good 10 minutes' worth of portentous video explaining the story, a sci-fi tale about sonic resistance to shadowy government departments and such like. Everything is bound together by this narrative – there are two other rappers on stage, for instance, and they're acting as agents of the resistance lecturing a crowd of new recruits. Each song is carefully contextualised, and comes with its own five-minute chunk of story and video. There are also actors in white sterile suits and masks doing various tasks during the show. Riz really is trying to live up to the "trans-media" billing, and he has created something that's unique, at least.

The songs themselves are barbed little digs at the world, satirical raps about the government, the economy and trappings of modern living. They're hardly original subjects, but they benefit from the intelligence behind them: he's got a lot more to say than most, and he's a good deal more eloquent with it. Trouble is, it's only partially successful. The music's great, and while the concept is a lot to swallow, it isn't at all bad. Sadly, proceedings suffer from a lack of polish. The lines aren't tight enough, and there's too much that feels improvised and too much flab.

The ratio of palaver to actual rapping is also too high. More than half the night is given over to plot, which means we only get something like eight songs in half an hour.

For one of these songs though, he turns the audience around, gets them to sit down, and has three of his white-suited actors play quiet cello, violin and guitar while he raps thoughtfully about terrorism. It's the best moment of the night: there's none of the artifice, just a beautiful song.

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