Young Fathers, Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, May 22
Young Fathers are an intensely interesting band. The young trio, made up of Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole, and ‘G’ Hastings, burst out of the Edinburgh hip-hop scene last year, scooping the 2014 Mercury Music prize for their album DEAD and drawing a good deal of attention to themselves for their biting, left wing lyrics and joint-popping, head-filling beats. Now, they’re back and touring with a legendary trail of live shows and a new offering, the contentiously titled album White Men Are Black Men Too.
Their show at the Brudenell Social Club blew me away. The opening set the tone for their performance: a long, vibrating drumbeat blasted out, the stage shrouded in purple smoke, as the shadowy silhouettes of the trio swam into focus. The crowd was immediately turned on as Young Fathers began to weave their magic, addressing the sea of faces before them with a hypnotic, aggressive intensity. Their music manages to slip with ease between gritty hip hop, angelic, gospel-esque song, and electrifyingly tribal beats. The determined vitality of favourite single from 2014, ‘GET UP’, whipped up the crowd almost instantly. From guys in snapbacks skanking at the front to older fans head-nodding at the back, everyone was mesmerised. Their live renditions of ‘Still Running’ and ‘Old Rock and Roll’ from the new album also stick out in my memory as awesome performances, passionate and engaging in every way. Equally impressive was the demonic dancing of Bankole and Massaquoi, the backlit stage used to its utmost advantage to dramatically frame their explosive moves. The three men on stage skillfully meshed together, a gyrating ball of primal, howling activity that kept all eyes on them.
As the show continued, the energy in the room was almost unbelievable. People were dancing hard, sweat dripping from faces, and the crowded floor space got hotter and hotter. I kept glancing up and noticing the fifties-style ceiling tiles of the Brudenell, so distant from the explosion of genres, races and cultures that was happening on stage. The trio are often remarked upon for their dynamic as a multiracial group – Massaquoi is from Liberia, and Bankole is of Nigerian parentage, while Hastings is from Edinburgh – and their brazen attitude to race, nationality, identity. Their incredible stage presence – three proud, dignified young men, together – was a testament to the weary struggle against racial prejudice that still exists even today. It is rare, I feel, to go to and see music that evokes that sense so strongly. There’s just something about Young Fathers that feels right, but it was a bittersweet moment, it reminded me of how much more we as individuals need to do to affect change. To be in a crowd so thoroughly tapped into that mentality was not just fun and memorable but also profoundly moving. Hands waved in the air, eyes closed dreamily and heads were thrown back as people really listened. I have a feeling that Young Fathers are just getting started.