Immortal Technique: Electric Brixton, 25/10/12

World famous not only for his music, but his activism, charity work and independence, Technique has built a base of supporters (he hates the word fan) like no other hip-hop artist on the scene. Fresh from a multitude of European dates on the Return of the Rebels tour, his first London appearance since 2008 was held at the Electric Brixton (formerly Fridge).

I arrive an hour late and the doors are yet to open. The queue stretches around the corner for what seems like miles. To the casual observer, we look as though we’re queuing for a London Riots reunion party. I snake into the front of the line where some friends have been waiting – two body searches later and we’re finally in.

The venue is big, but somehow still intimate. The room already has that sweat skunk aroma. Mazzi and DJ Snuff open with ample energy, unusual for the first warm up – even managing to get the largely sober crowd dancing with an impressive freestyle over Mr Scruff’s ‘Get a Move on’.

Like most hip-hop gigs, there is something so organic about the attitudes of the performers – spontaneous collaborations and special appearances give the show the feeling that you’re not just listening to the same set list, same bars or anything all that similar to the hundreds of shows that have been before.

Dj Static jumps on the decks for a half hour hip-hop retrospective; a truly impressive display of old school turntablism that almost felt like a history lesson. Swave Sevah, an up and coming New Yorker who emerged from the battle scene spat an emotional set, then handed the mic over to Poison Pen, who was disappointingly generic for such a veteran. Lowkey emerges from the wings to thunderous noise from the crowd. While not being a fan of his, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed his anthem-style tunes and commanding stage presence.

His last track is ‘Voices of the Voiceless’, and the atmosphere is suddenly intensified to new levels; this is Lowkey and Immortal Technique’s collaboration. We all know what’s going to happen when Lowkey’s verse ends and the hook kicks in. Technique bursts out and goes straight into his verse.

What followed next was two hours of pure adulation. Beginning the set with tracks off his latest release (a free mixtape called The Martyr), and edging farther and farther backwards through his catalogue, he knew he was playing to a crowd that know his music back to front. ‘Industrial Revolution’ brought the house down as he dropped it midway through his set, closely followed by ‘Caught in a Hustle’ which finished with an acapella. You could hardly hear it though, as the crowd spat every bar along with him, with the same intonation.

Holding the crowd like a stand-up comedian between tracks with topics from the effects of the British Empire to the role of feminism within a revolutionary mind set (honestly, it happened), Tech revealed himself to be a great storyteller.

The last track Tech dropped was ‘Obnoxious’, a firm fan favourite. Midway through, a scuffle broke out front and centre. Tech’s still spitting but shaking his finger at them, motioned them to stop. Seconds later he shouts ‘cut the music!’ and there is silence. He rushes to the front of the stage, closely followed by about 30 people from backstage. During the scuffle, one of the guys had shoved a girl in order to get closer to the stage. Technique starts leading a rally against this kid, screaming “get the fuck out my room!”, and suddenly the entire crowd joins in.

Poison Pen wades through the barrier and calms the crowd down. At the very end of the show, he gives the girl who had been pushed his flat cap. I promise you 70% of the room wished they had been pushed/shoved/kicked if it meant keeping Tech’s hat.

The show ends at 12pm and Tech shouts “Anyone who wants to meet me, get an autograph or have a chat, I’ll be in the back corner”. Respect to him – by 1.30 there are still hundreds of people waiting.

Overall the show was insane – if I’d gone into it not knowing much about him or his music, the crowd’s response and energy would have shocked me. Immortal Technique is playing Leeds student union on the 1st of November. If you’ve got a ticket, you are in for an experience like no other.

Oscar Burton Xi