There are few rappers who tread the line between west coast gangsta rap and the indie-styling of skateboarding culture as finely as ScHoolboy Q – so it’s unsurprising that the queue snaking its way back from House of Vans towards Waterloo on September 27 is as long as it is diverse.
It’s a sign, no doubt, of just how eagerly anticipated Q’s sixth album, sadly delayed by the recent death of his close friend Mac Miller, is, following the success of 2016’s Blank Face, which combined frenzied drug raps, hallucinogenic humour and bombastic instrumentals in a whirlpool of neon-lit visuals.
Having just come off the back of a star-studded 30-date US and Canada tour, alongside fellow TDE signees Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, SZA and Ab-Soul, the five-time Grammy nominated rapper then headed straight to London, for an intimate show that formed part of Vans ‘Share The Stage’ campaign.
What that meant was that ScHoolboy was supported by the winner of a huge Europe-wide contest, organised by Vans, with the champion chosen by the LA rapper himself. Step forward south London’s very own Tay Made, who beat out more than 300 other entries to land a coveted spot alongside Q on the line-up.
With a handful of vibrant videos across the UK’s key rap and grime platforms – from SBTV to GRM – Tay Made’s Stupid Mad Fresh collective have been building their following among the capital’s clued up teens, and this was an opportunity to celebrate that in front of a crowd always eager to hear the next big thing.
The young MC made the most of his moment, bringing a full crew on stage to get the masses moving, and giving a real sense that this was no mere warm-up – make no mistake, there was plenty of enthusiasm in the room for the up-and-comer too. By the time he reached the peak of his set, an amped up performance of his signature track ‘Bad and Boujey’, the crowd had got as hyped up as his crew, and House of Vans’ impressive sound system truly brought the bass-heavy to life.
After a short break the room filled up again in anticipation of the main act, and soon the subterranean venue’s cavernous arches started shaking again, as ScHoolboy Q ran out to a fever pitch of excitement, launching straight into the irresistibly catchy ‘That Part’, the stand out single from 2016’s Blank Face.
‘WHat THey Want’ followed, by which point the crowd at the front was a swirling mass of moshing skater kids, the older attendees mostly having slid to the back. A tribute to his friend and closest collaborator Kendrick was next, with Q covering ‘m.A.A.d city’, from Lamar’s debut album. He then gave a spirited rendition of the anthemic ‘X’, taken from the incredible Black Panther soundtrack, a personal favourite of mine and a joy to hear live.
The closer of his set, ‘Hell Of A Night’ was a fitting end to the show. Q was clearly impressed by the young Londoners who’d jumped on Vans’ ballot and bagged free tickets, remarking several times on the unstoppable energy in the room. As well as giving his dedicated UK fans a rare opportunity to catch him live, many of whom were fully kitted out in TDE merch, he also handed Tay Made a golden opportunity to pick up a host of new fans – a goal he seemingly accomplished with ease. Watch this space for big things from him in the coming year.
Words: Alex McFadyen
Photography: James North
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