If you’re into conscious hip-hop (or political rap, or freedom rap, or whatever you want to call it) and you live in or around London, it was always gonna be the night of the year. The legendary Dead Prez – true veterans of the scene – supported by some of the brightest and best UK hip-hop talent: Skinnyman, Akala and Sway.

The show got off to a great start with the help of the one and only MC Skinnyman – the man behind what to my mind is the best UK hip-hop album of all time, ‘Council Estate of Mind’. Skinny was at his brilliant best, giving an energetic performance with Mudfam collaborator RTillery. They came on to the massive hit ‘Ballistic Affair’, before Skinny went into acapella mode, dedicating his performance to the oppressed and dispossessed youth. The crowd didn’t hesitate to join him in chanting “F*** the police” :-)

Skinnyman and RTillery’s performance of ‘Music Speaks Louder than Words’, a new track from Skinny’s forthcoming EP, was definitely one of the highlights of the night. A near-perfect beat is laced with an uplifting vocal, cursing out the politicians and putting forward the truth for the youth in the language everybody understands – music.

Next up was Akala – without a doubt one of the smartest and most talented people on the scene. Sporting an impressively large Africa medallion, he moved the crowd with several bangers from his new album, Doublethink. Never one to stick with the tried-and-tested formulas, he came on with a live drummer, which definitely helped to make his set stand out.

An impassioned performance of the beautiful ‘Find No Enemy’ had the crowd eating out of his hand, but he saved the best for last, bringing out Lowkey, Black the Ripper and Sway for a live performance of the ‘Yours and My Children’ remix. For anyone into UK hip-hop and particularly the revolutionary brand of music that people like Akala and Lowkey are pushing, it was an inspiring, deep moment to see some of the scene’s best talents uniting to make music that uplifts the people!

As if that wasn’t enough of a surprise, Akala then brought out one of the kings of Brazilian hip-hop, MC Marechal, who delighted the crowd with a big track. I’d love to know what he was saying, but it was in Portuguese. I’m pretty sure he’s on the right side ;-)

The last act before Dead Prez was Sway, who put in a very solid performance including tracks from his most recent ‘Delivery’ mixtape as well as some classics from his first album (I’d almost forgotten how good it was).

Now don’t get me wrong, I like and respect Sway. He’s a talented brother, a great lyricist, a positive human being and a capable performer. However, one of my few gripes about the gig was that I don’t think Sway should have performed directly before Dead Prez, simply for the sake of continuity of content. Dead Prez, Akala and Skinnyman are revolutionary in their lyrics. Sway’s a good guy, but his lyrical focus is not consistent with the lyrical theme of the other artists on the night. That small gripe aside, Sway definitely put in a lively performance and got a great response from the crowd, so all respect due.

Next up was of course Dead Prez. Well… actually, Sway was followed by around an hour of waiting for Dead Prez! DJ 279 took the chance to get the party moving, playing some utter classics, including ‘Nas is Like’, Mos Def’s ‘Mathematics’, Mobb Deep’s ‘Shook Ones’ and Klashnekoff’s ‘Murda’. It was kinda funny to see the conscious rap crowd shockin’ hard to a Snoop track though!

Just as we were all starting to wonder if Dead Prez were ever going to make it, the RBG soldiers ran on stage to start off a phenomenal performance that showcased tracks from across the range of their 14-years-and-counting existence. M1 and Stic.man’s endless energy and their profound devotion to freedom were shining brightly as they performed classics such as ‘Mind Sex’ and ‘Hip-Hop’, as well as hits from their 2009 album ‘Pulse of the People’ such as ‘Gangsta Gangster’ and ‘Stimulus Plan’. A couple of numbers from their most recent mixtape (‘Revolutionary But Gangsta Grillz’) got a fantastic crowd response, including the epic ‘Malcolm Garvey Huey’ and their Drake cover, ‘Far From Over’.

M1 let slip that he and Stic.man had spent the previous night in the studio with Lowkey, recording a follow-up to Lowkey’s enormous ‘Obama Nation’. Definitely something to look forward to! I was hoping Lowkey might join DPZ on stage for a tune or two, but it wasn’t to be.

To close a mindblowing set, Dead Prez turned down the tempo a little, playing Al Green’s ‘Let’s Stay Together’ and leaving the stage to loud cheering from the crowd. Safe to say they rocked the party. It was a privilege to be there, celebrating the ten-year anniversary of one of the greatest LPs in hip-hop history, ‘Let’s Get Free’.

All round a great night. My only serious complaint would be that the sound quality was far from perfect. HMV Forum, please fix up!

Heads from the scene spotted in the crowd: Ms Dynamite, Genesis Elijah (good to meet you bro), Logic (you disappeared!), Stylah and DJ Gone. Big up!

Download DPZ ‘Revolutionary But Gangsta Grillz’
Follow Dead Prez on Twitter
Follow Akala on Twitter
Follow Sway on Twitter
Follow Skinnyman on Twitter
Follow Lowkey on Twitter
Follow Black the Ripper on Twitter
Follow RTillery on Twitter
Follow MC Marechal on Twitter

Uhuru!