WHEN the Gods of Rap package tour was announced, there were knowing comments online about what form it would take or whether it would actually happen, in reference in particular to headliners the Wu-Tang Clan’s tendency to have components of their extensive membership come and go as they please at a moment’s notice. Such cynicism was unfounded, however; this was an arena show with all the wide-reaching appeal of a big budget revival event but also all the energy and commitment of a concert given by people who still have something to say.
Gods of Rap, Hydro, Glasgow ****
Although billing was very generously shared between the three artists on the bill – the Wu-Tang, Public Enemy and De La Soul – the trio were clearly graded in terms of size and audience appeal during the show. Long Island, New York trio De La Soul are crowd-pleasing favourites whose 1989 debut album 3 Feet High and Rising (“thank you for a beautiful long 30 years,” they offered gratefully here) has brought a number of enduring classics to the pop canon.
Although the simple two MCs and one DJ/MC set-up here didn’t quite do justice to their critical stature, a set full of self-described “classic shit” including Me, Myself & I and Ring Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey) created a thrilling opening sequence for those in attendance early.
In the event, it was Public Enemy – one of the most regimented and professional live hip hop groups you’re ever likely to see – who appeared in diminished form, although you wouldn’t have known it by the power of their set. Despite the absence of the clowning Flavor Flav and former fulcrum Terminator X, polemicist-in-chief Chuck D is all that’s required to bring the spirit of PE to a room.
With regular deck controller DJ Lord (whose demonstration of solo mixing was as breathtaking as any drum solo) and dance troupe/militia Security of the First World onstage, Chuck and rap accomplice Jahi made sure there was no fat on this rebranded Public Enemy Radio greatest hits set. They powered their way through protest anthems like Don’t Believe the Hype, Rebel Without a Pause and Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos – with Chuck pausing to tear strips off Theresa May, Donald Trump and sectarian bigotry – in a way which left us wondering whether any group has done this better.
If the answer is yes, it’s Wu-Tang Clan who make it so. With more volume and screens than their support crews, an eight-strong contingent including founders RZA, GZA and Raekwon were able to bring together a bona fide arena-level show of classics including Protect Ya Neck, Wu Tang: 7th Chamber and the crossover hit Gravel Pit, with solo excursions including the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s son on his dad’s hits Shimmy Shimmy Ya and Got Your Money. Between-set onscreen clips promised Gods of Rap II very soon, an obvious evolution from this successful outing.