This was a gig that I only attended because I happened to be visiting a friend in Milton Keynes this weekend, and we were so surprised to find some half decent live music on in the city that it felt rude not to attend. Despite KRS One’s legendary status, I’m not actually that familiar with his work, and my experience of attending hip-hop shows has been mixed at best, so my hopes were not especially high. Arriving at the venue, a barn in the middle of nowhere on the outskirts of Milton Keynes, which had been converted into a sports bar/live music venue, even less so. It seemed a particularly incongruous place to find a legend of hip-hop.
We milled around for a while, whilst the DJ took us through the history of hip-hop from The Sugarhill Gang through to Kendrick Lamar. I confidently predicted that rap artists always arrive on stage late so we had no need to hurry our drinks, so of course he started 10 minutes early. It was a simple set-up, just a DJ and the man himself on the mike, but KRS-One soon proved that was all he needed. The set was relentless with his best known hits (Sound of da Police, Step into a World) mixed in with more recent tracks, freestyles (quite possibly pre-planned freestyles, but excellent nonetheless) and political tirades on Syria and Black Lives Matter. The venue, which I had been originally so dismissive of, turned out to be excellent, with the small but rammed main room sounding superb and making for an excellent atmosphere. The crowd (myself and friends excepted) seemed to know almost every word, and if the man himself wondered what he was doing in such a place, he didn’t show it, barely letting up for a moment (besides strangely disappearing for a minor costume change halfway through the set).
I went into this show expecting little beyond something to keep us occupied on a Saturday night, but was reminded once again of why I love live music so. My initial cynicism had disappeared within moments of the show starting, and as I worked my way to the front of the crowd, just a few feet away from a truly great rapper I was swept away, intoxicated by the joy of music. It was all over in 45 minutes or so, but what a 45 minutes it was. There’s a lot to be said for not only going to watch the bands you know you’ll like, but taking a chance every once in a while.