Up until last Friday the most physically painful moment of my life involved a lunchtime rugby incident and 3 broken bones in my arm, since Friday it's been being unable to stand up and dance at a Kwame show. When the drums dropped on ‘STOP KNOCKIN’ @ MY DOOR’, my metaphorical straightjacket of COVID safe practices was stretched to its absolute tether.
It was the perfect night to see Kwame perform, his new EP Please, Get Home Safe had dropped that morning and he was playing the final of his six sold-out shows at The Lansdowne. I’ve seen Kwame a few times before and whether he’s been opening for Tkay Maidza or setting Splendour alight, generally about 23 seconds into the set I’m somewhere swimming in a sea of sweaty bodies screaming the words. Seeing Kwame in an intimate 50 person room was a completely different world and as it turned out, a world he was completely at home in.
Before Kwame came on, the stage was warmed by Sydney rapper Phil Fresh. Phil Fresh also effortlessly adapted to the more intimate setting, even commenting that he enjoyed getting to play a couple of his slower songs that might not usually fit the energy of his live shows. Excitingly he played an unreleased track featuring Kwame, that was sounding TickTok ready and seems to set to dominate Sydney airwaves whenever it gets released. Phil Fresh showed an interesting development of his sound playing quite a few songs that were singing-heavy but then reminded us of his rapping roots with a word-for-word perfect performance of his new track ‘Ones Up’. Phil Fresh has been bubbling under in Sydney’s hip hop scene for a while, getting regular spins on Triple J and popping up on stages all over the East Coast, seeing him perform live it’s easy to tell he’s headed on an upward trajectory and there’s plenty more to come from him.
Kwame’s whole set was wonderful, playing his whole EP and had a few collaborators/friends join him on stage with E^ST, Phil Fresh and CLYPSO all jumping on stage. However, even though each track he played deserved a mention, I want to focus on just a couple of moments in the set. Hip hop has had some very prophetic moments over the years. When Andre 3000 proclaimed ‘The South got something to say’ at the 1995 Source Awards, there was little doubt that Outkast were taking their first steps towards writing Hip Hop history. When a 17 year old Joey Bada$$ stepped onto the stage at Jimmy Fallon and flawlessly performed ‘Waves’, it was pretty clear he was here to stay. There’s Nas’ verse on Main Source’s ‘Live at the Barbeque’, Kanye’s acceptance speech for his Grammy for College Dropout, Snoop passing Kendrick Lamar the torch at his show, the list is endless.
When Kwame spoke before performing his song ‘Glory’, I think the 50 odd people sitting in the Lansdowne were treated to a moment that they’ll one day remember as prophetic. Kwame spoke about some of the internal demons he’d been dealing with and detailed how as his musical career was coming together, his mind seemed to be falling apart. He spoke of struggles with the music industry, the difficulties of processing what has been an emotionally tumultuous year for people of colour and difficulties in some personal relationships. It was a speech that existed in the moment and maybe doesn’t belong on a piece of paper, but a few things really shined through. Music isn’t just a job to Kwame it’s a truly therapeutic form of expression, he holds an incredibly genuine appreciation for the people around him, whether that be his team, his fans or his family/friends and that as far as music goes, he’s only getting started.
The performance of the track itself was also a reminder that Kwame is just really, really good at making music. He kept reminding the crowd that Please, Get Home Safe is his best work yet and he couldn’t be more correct. Kwame’s already produced some fantastic work but the tracks on Please, Get Home Safe are different. They’re more personal, they’re cinematic, they’re larger than life. Tracks like ‘Glory’, ‘We Can Be’ and Stop Knockin’ @ My Door’ are arena ready. Kwame spoke personally once again before performing the final song of the set ‘We Can Be’. As the track’s outro played, which sounds reminiscent of a track off Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kwame broke into exasperated cries, it was a vocal victory lap of emotion as Kwame left every piece of himself on the stage.
Kwame sent people home not with just the experience of a good hip hop show, but with a dose of inspiration that really left everyone in that room believing they could be something.