3rd April | Exchange
Photos: Lee Ramsey
After a sold-out show in London’s Village Underground, one of Brighton’s most eminent hip-hop collectives, Frankie Stew and Harvey Gunn, arrived at Exchange with what I anticipated to be an exhibition of their new silky and poignant EP, The Lakes’ Instead, what we were gifted was a display of versatility: performers delving into their musical catalogue and showcasing an alternative, more buoyant side to the conventional.
Frankie Stew and Harvey Gunn’s UK tour marked the release of The Lakes – a personification of the pair’s inimitable music production. Stew’s usage of Sprechgesang with recitals of life occurrences fits perfectly with Gunn’s sultry beat-making. Stew introduced its lead single, ‘Black Water’. The synth-laden beat created a delicate air within the room. Stew pensively paced across the stage, delivering a heartfelt confession to a non-physical other half.
A facet of the duo’s arsenal is Gunn’s sample repertoire and how it displays his meticulous ear through an expansive knowledge of different genres. The Morning EP of 2014 exemplifies this in a surprising but welcoming manner. ‘Sometimes’, making use of Joanna Newsom’s moody ballad, ‘In California’ induced tandem swaying from the crowd with Newsom’s voice almost akin to a lullaby.
The duo stayed true to their melancholic roots. Stew describing aspirations for the archetypal familial life whilst reminiscing over times of his youth: from not seeing eye-to-eye with teachers to leisurely days spent with his brother. Stew’s sincerity was heart-warming.
They upped the ante moments later with another track from The Morning. The energy of the crowd jumping in unison was refreshing to see and their word-for-word singing of ‘Put It On Me’ even better. Gunn again demonstrated his depth in crate-digging here, sampling progressive rock band Genesis’ ‘Dancing in The Moonlit Knight’. The crowd by this point had reached optimum energy levels, embracing the catalogue of songs normally delivered in an unhurried and chilled manner. However, this evening saw a side to the duo I hadn’t seen. The punchy, energetic lyrical delivery was a well-received breath of fresh air.
Throughout their tour, the duo has been supported by rising poet and rapper, Manik MC. The animated recitalist made waves in 2018 with his Midnight Express EP and has continued to go from strength to strength, recently collaborating with Foot Locker in creating a promo video to launch their new Space Collection. In the video, the MC performs a snippet from his single, ‘Ends Life’ – an honest reflection of the daily episodes growing up in North London. We had the fortune of witnessing this in person.
Coupled with the diverse production of Kunfucius, Manik’s delivery was punchy and astute. He ended with an acapella spoken-word piece, which highlighted the regular individual’s struggle, ranging from disenchantment with the government’s functionality to the futile attempt in trying to make headway in life, only to be scorned by society’s rigidity. Poised and scrupulous, the future is looking undeniably promising for the multi-faceted Manik MC.
Undoubtedly, the talent showcased at Exchange was delivered with humility and candour. Such interactions with the crowd were ever-present ’til the end of the show where Stew catapulted himself into the gleeful crowd as we carried him across, thankful for the display we had been graced with.
See the video for ‘Love One Another’ here: