Ten years ago if you’d told Wiley he’d be playing a sold out gig at the Roundhouse, he would have probably flashed his gold tooth smile while questioning your mental state. This is because (and let us never forget) that grime was once essentially banned from clubs and radio stations for being too aggressive and “inciting violence” according to the police. Yet somehow, miraculously, that’s exactly where we were on Thursday night.
Wiley, now fully embracing his role as the godfather of grime has helped steer this rugged and raw street genre into a position where he’s now playing a show at the same venue as other banned acts including The Doors, Jefferson Airplane and Jimi Hendrix.
Wiley is known as the godfather because of his tireless dedication to nurturing and promoting established and emerging talent in the grime scene. His warm up for Thursday night, DJ Logan Sama, has been playing grime on pirate radio stations since the days it was banned.
— Mattie Pope (@mattiepopey) February 10, 2017
Wiley bounds onto to the stage like a man possessed; the energy of grime that once terrified the establishment unleashed straight off the bat. The first three tracks played are the most high energy tracks off the new album, Godfather. Reassuringly yet not surprisingly, the majority of the crowd have learnt the words already. There’s a lot of pushing and shoving, but somehow it all feels very polite and middle class.
The crowd is certainly one of the most diverse I have ever seen. All ages, classes and backgrounds. It’s strange, and beautiful that a guy from a council estate in East London can bring Jemima from Chelsea out to dance to his music but such grime’s broad appeal in 2017. Wiley often stops during the performance to look around at this surreal and monumental occasion and take it all in. It’s hard to believe this is happening.
Four tracks in and things really start heating up. Of the many special guests certain to be in attendance, Lethal Bizzle is the first to come out and a real mosh pit starts. Devlin comes out for one of Godfather’s stand out tracks – ‘Holy Grime’. Chaos ensues.
The list of cameos inevitably grows and this gig is starting to feel like a real celebration of grime compèred by Wiley. He is humble and proud enough to share the limelight with a host of other artists. D Double E, Skepta, JME, Chipmunk, Ghetts, Flowdan and P Money all make appearances and show their love and obvious respect for Wiley which is warmly reciprocated.
The mosh pit, and the now compulsory participation in it, has been a permanent fixture from very early on. Pretty much the entire ground floor of the venue is a heaving, swirling mass. I catch a glimpse of a girl with a Chanel handbag right in the mix. It becomes apparent the reason for this heightened burst of energy is that the current King of Grime, Stormzy, has taken to the stage wielding his new banger ‘Big For Your Boots.’
It’s fitting that Wiley should end his show with a performance my a newer member of the scene. From the beginning Wiley has thrown his support behind the next generation and Thursday’s exhilarating and high energy gig only served to prove how it’s payed off.