Review: Lewis Parker & Task Force @ The Jazz Café (London, 13th January 2017)

I’d never been to the Jazz Cafe before, so armed with my Gold DM’s, I shuffle and squeeze myself through a tight and thick dance floor, into a spot where I can see the stage. Finally, I find respite in a corner.

Chester P asks the crowd, “Are any of you from the old school?”

Farmer G responds, “I’m old school, I’m so old school, I used to watch you when I was in my mum’s tummy, through her belly button!”

This witty repartee shows them as confident and relaxed, the moments between songs filled with interesting asides and thoughts, and tonight we’re delighted thanks to London’s raconteurs par excellence!

Chester P, Farmer G and DJ Skitz are rocking the joint tonight. With the upper balcony, the almost visible electricity passing between performers and the crowd, it feels like watching a gladiatorial battle at the Colosseum.

And at times it does really feel like combat, as track after track, the audience participates by hollering out the punch lines with such speed and accuracy, it’s like a blow by blow commentary on a UFC fight. It really makes the whole experience feel visceral.

We are treated to a brief message about safe sex, performed to a backing of Dawn Penn’s ‘You Don’t Love Me.’

“This one is for those who have promiscuous sex without a condom. Don’t catch venereal diseases”

Along with ‘Victoria Sponge’, performed a cappella, they prove that they’re consummate performers. Dazzling with technical precision, accompanied by lyrical genius. At times tonight, I swear it’s like Double-Dutch!

Whilst talking about their love of hip-hop, they pass comment on battle rapping, with Chester P saying. “…when I was young, you actually had to freestyle whatever came at you. None of this going out there with pre-written bars. Man would have got destroyed for that back in the day!”

“Rapping is a part of hip-hop culture, producing and breakdancing are parts of hip–hop culture, its graffiti that holds it all together”

They launch into ‘Graff the Bus Up‘ the crowd erupts and the track gets wheeled up. Everyone goes in HAM! This performance goes a long way towards proving that the emerging dominance of the UK hip-hop and grime scenes, is more than a passing fad, they really are forces to be reckoned with on a global scale.

The beaming fans said, “It’s like they were amazing when I saw them 10 years ago. But seeing them now, established, consummate professionals, it was like 1000 times better!”

“I was feeling dead when I got here, now, it’s like I’ve been energised by the (un)holy spirit that Task Force Brings”

Afterwards I grabbed a quick chat with Farmer G: “We’re local boys, so it’s always great to perform to a home crowd. Plus, the Jazz is looking nice and plush. The crowd were great, it was a nice, high energy!”

Even during the intermission, the fans are buzzing, with a visible sense of energy, this is a hotly anticipated set! On comes the man in question to get things started,

“In the place to be, so all you can see, the original MC Lewis Parker.”

Throughout the set, Lewis Parker interacts with the crowd, in the form of call and response. It helps to get people’s attention as much as making the gig feel more intimate and personal.

Pulling out some dirty beats, with heavy bass lines, which is more in keeping with a 90’s hip-hop vibe, there’s even a little G Funk to partner the bombastic drums. The crowd, especially the front row shows it’s appreciation as they get their groove on, before all start bopping along to release the stress.

Damn, this vibe is based on the roots of hip-hop, without all the BS we have become accustomed to these days.

The talent that led to him producing for US rappers is apparent, as is the impact it has had on him as an artist. For segments of this crowd, they have no love for his recent work and can be heard shouting “UK! UK!” whilst others looked surly and shook their heads disapprovingly.

Perhaps sensing this mood, Lewis Parker takes us back to ’95, instantly revitalising the masses.

The naysayers come flooding back to the dance floor as we’re treated to an almost transcendental performance to release the stress. Tonight really has been a double dose of lyrical flowetry. The head nodding has given way to some serious moves as the beats and bars get harder.

I’m more into the older stuff myself, but it’s hard to quantify when the subject matter is so objective. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with his newer work, I just prefer the feel of the old.

I get the feeling the crowd has questions for Lewis Parker to answer. There’s an awful lot of hands in the air. Such an enjoyable crowd, no beef, just communicable sonic bliss. It may not be Harlem’s Paradise, but this is certainly a premier event hosted at a premier venue, Camden’s Jazz Café.