In the week London’s Madame Tussauds unveils wax works of P Diddy and Snoop Dogg among other rap stars, a more underground exponent is celebrating its heritage in a more vital way.
Dennis Coles, aka Ghostface Killah, has flown over to promote his Wu-Block collaboration with the lesser known, though still respected, Sean ‘Sheek Louch’ Jacobs, yet their thoughts are as much on the past as the present.
One of the finest lyricists to emerge from Staten Island’s much feted Wu Tang Clan, Ghostface has been one of the group’s less effusive members in their fitful appearances over recent years.
Tonight, though, he reaches back through the Wu’s and his own back catalogues, energised by a collaborator on the same wave length. This is Louch, representing Yonkers’ own D-Block label. Together, the pair helmed last autumn’s Wu-Block album that brought together talents from their respective outfits, among them GZA, Raekwon and Jadakiss, promising a street rather than radio record.
With just the two of them available here, Ghostface and Louch surmount the problem of recreating its tunes by mainly reprising their best loved tunes, probably for the best as we are spared endless repetition of allusions to drugs, guns and expensive cars. Instead, one supports the other as they take turns to fire rhymes over fleeting backing tracks.
The Clan master is hoarse yet commanding, while his constantly grinning partner gees up the attentive crowd. Shared sartorial taste in white tees and red hats is just the start of their understanding.
Normally such nights sour when rappers rely on audience participation, yet the invitees selected to play the roles of Method Man and Ol’ Dirty Bastard in the Wu’s ‘Protect Ya Neck’ provide enthusiastic if breathless cameos, the former getting as committed a reaction as his heroes. Wu-Block material largely fits in well: the dippy ‘Stick Up Kids’, where grandma encourages violence, is just as lairy as The LOX rapper’s own military march ‘Mighty D-Block’, though they fail to energise the lame ‘Crackspot Stories’, two vets resting on their laurels.
Otherwise, the intensity rarely drops as the pair hurry to the curfew, getting just a verse each to prove themselves in a rap battle with no loser. Yes, they could have hit the stage earlier and many showmen say they hate to leave, but when Wu-Block claim they could play for another hour, for once you are inclined to believe them.