Hip-Hop’s presence at Warehouse Project has been few and far between over the years, so securing one of the most critically acclaimed rappers of our day to head up Rodigan’s Ram Jam was certainly a welcome sight. Along with his dozen-or-so deep posse Pro Era, Joey Bada$$ gave Manchester a pungent flavour of Brooklyn, New York, in a night which certainly filled the appetite of Store Street’s boom-bap head-boppers.

Starting the evening in style, Congo Natty’s performance came as a tasteful appetiser; familiar smatterings of Grime, Hip-Hop and Garage (including D Double E, RBX, Wu-Tang and even some Kanye West) nicely warmed up the harsh winter night.

Wookie continued to bring the good vibes and kept the energy simmering at a steady temperature. Handfuls of Drum N Bass and heaps of 2-Step Garage went down well after a solid set from the previous act.

Next up on the menu was a rich serving of JME. Widely regarded as one of Grime’s pioneers and now an unmistakable veteran of the game, it was genuinely astounding to see so many of the Warehouse faithful flock to Room 1 for his performance. Pushed for time, he swiftly ran through his back-catalogue from his breakout hit ‘Serious’ to the more recent ’96 Fuckries’ via guest verses from tracks such as Lethal Bizzle’s ‘Pow 2011.’

Saving the best two ‘til last, ‘Man Don’t Care’ and the now-iconic ‘That’s Not Me,’ each and every lyric of both songs were spat back venomously and in full-throttle right back to the man on stage. The energy in the room was beyond belief for a Grime set which, for a movement that started on gritty council estate corners and in bedroom pirate radio broadcasts, was wonderful to see. Even the silver-spooned, middle-class white kids were aggressively lunging and skanking their way through the set, which is excellent.

Keeping the broth boiling was main attraction Joey Bada$$ alongside his ever-impressive clique Pro Era. Kirk Knight, CJ Fly and Nyck Caution all made appearances next to the main man, spewing out surprise verses left, right and centre over the course of the set. DJ Statik Selektah was on the ones and twos cooking up a storm whilst Joey ran through snippets of his highly lauded mixtape 1999 and his debut release from earlier this year B4.DA.$$.

The first rule of partying is that a disco ball is always a great idea. The second rule is that a multitude of disco balls is even better. Despite there being no flared trousers or sequinned shirts on stage, Joey and Co certainly brought the party to Store Street and used the classic trick to full effect.

The performance, much like the aesthetic, was bold, radiant and glorious. ‘Christ Conscious,’ ‘Survival Tactics’ and ‘Paper Trail$’ embodied Joey’s set; it was high-energy, in-your-face and simply wonderful to watch.

Performance-wise you’d be hard-pressed to see a rapper pour so much effort into his art. Word-for-word lyrics, stage presence, confidence, maturity, execution – for a young man of 20 years old you’d think it is only a matter of time before the namesake of his tour (World Domination) becomes a reality.

The night undoubtedly hit boiling point with his recent collaboration with Oxford-based indie band Glass Animals. ‘Lose Control’ quite literally made the place do exactly what it says on the tin, and at 134 BPM the song sounded closer to a Grime riddim than the familiar bread and butter boom-bap we know and love Bada$$ for.

Simmering things down momentarily was the legend himself, the pioneer, the man who lives and breathes Reggae, Roots, and Culture: Sir David Rodigan. Opting more for the specialist dubplates rather than his usual eclectic mix of commercial Reggae, Grime and Hip-Hop, his set was markedly different to the previous shows I’ve been to and hit a bit of a sour note with me.

warehouse project
Photo: Pippa Rankin Photography

The stop-start tracklist with interjections of monologues every few songs became a little excessive and quite played-out by the end of his set. With that being said, he did of course bring some sing-a-long tunes with him including a DnB remix of The Fugees’ ‘Ready or Not,’ Chase & Status’ ‘No Problem’ and the timeless ‘Is This Love’ by Bob Marley.

In a nutshell, JME unquestionably delivered, strolling through as cool as a cucumber. But a disappointing set from Rodigan was a somewhat bitter pill to swallow. Expecting the full banquet from Warehouse Project with a lineup including Wookie and Congo Natty, we were left wanting seconds. However seeing Joey Bada$$ progressing the way he is at the moment was certainly the icing on the cake.

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