13th June | Trinity
Smoky grey cloud clad the skyline as my friend and I made our steady way to the Trinity Centre. On the other side of its scaffolded exterior, a promising evening was lying in wait. Ghostface Killah, of Wu-Tang fame, would be acting as emissary for East Coast hip-hop for the evening, and Bristol was sell-out-crowd excited.
Beers in hand, we took our position in the fast-filling room. Local boy, Gardna was on the mic for the opening set and surprised many (me included) with his high-velocity verbal deluge. Spitting over some tasty dubplates, his tight bars preceded a slightly more confused outing from DJ Ionize. As he strayed too far from traditional hip-hop into a trappier realm, his hold on the crowd weakened. He was saved in part by some bars from an MC called Papers, who had to go a capella when technical issues forced a premature departure from the DJ.
This hiccough, coupled with an unusually-long wait time for the headliner’s set, might have killed the room’s anticipation, if Ghostface Killah didn’t have the two-decade clout that he thankfully does. This clout was abundantly clear when he strode onto the stage to the roar of an audience’s simultaneous excitement and relief.
Joined by Wu-Tang affiliate, Killah Priest, the two traded bars off each other in an opening salvo that was an instant reminder of why Ghostface is still considered an all-time legend in the genre. With DJ Technician playing an audio montage that allowed him to cover material from 36 Chambers (1993), Supreme Clientele (2000) and Ironman (1996) in just the opening third of the set, it was enough to get the crowd suitably amped up for the remainder of the evening.
‘We Made It,’ which is truly quintessential late-90s/ early-2000s hip-hop, played out like the ode to street success it was intended to be. Killah Priest used the space left by Superb’s missing bars to showcase his own undeniable talent, and it was nice to see the crowd respond accordingly, which can sometimes not be the case with second billers at rap shows.
A few tracks and a myriad of instrumentals later, it was time for Ghostface to bring it right back to the beginning. “Put ya hands up if you been a Wu-Tang fan from day one,” a loud cheer is shot right back at him. I stayed quiet, I don’t like to lie. “When I say day one, I’m talking 1993 and the 36 Chambers!”
The same noise again. I scan the crowd and decide that at least 75% of them have to be lying, based purely on their age, but such is the charisma of the man that they just can’t help themselves. That’s when ‘Da Mystery of Chessboxin’ was dropped, and the Wu’s mythology was laid out plain as day in the sweatmosphere of Trinity.
It was now time for what would turn out to be the highlight of the night, ‘Protect Ya Neck.’ With Method Man and ODB obviously absent, for two distinctly different reasons, Ghostface requested two fans to join him onstage and spit the absentees’ bars. This was, apparently, a litmus test of the city’s fans, and the pressure was on; especially after Ghostface made it clear we should make our disapproval very obvious should they fuck up.
First up was the girl who’d volunteered for Method’s verse, and before the mic was handed to her, she looked as uneasy as you might imagine. Then, however, came the start of her verse and the transformation was as remarkable as it was instant, exploding out of herself with arms pumping and a venomous delivery that missed not a single beat. The crowd lost its collective mind.
The fact that this could happen, in Bristol, 3000 miles away from New York, proves that Ghostface Killah and the Wu-Tang Clan really ain’t nuthing ta f’ wit, and anyone who was at the Trinity Centre that evening will undoubtedly agree.