Over the past few weeks Radio1 have well and truly dominated Hackney. With the Olympics just around the corner, Radio1’s Hackney Weekend kicked off the London Festival with more than a bang. As well as this, behind the scenes ambassadors such as Plan B, Labrinth and Leona Lewis have been running ‘The Hackney Academy’ for adolescents in the Hackney area wanting to succeed in the music industry. After a long drive in and a fairly painless queue we were into the arena.
It came to 1 o’clock and we headed over to the 1xtra tent to catch the first act on – one part of N-Dubz, Dappy himself. To be honest I was only watching him to pass the time before the other acts and he didn’t do much more than that. He rattled through some of his cringeworthy songs getting the crowd to help him shout ‘Na Na Naii’. Tinchy Stryder joined him on ‘Number One’, which was actually quite entertaining to finish his set. Emeli Sande came on at 2pm on the xtra stage and within minutes I had goosebumps all over my body as she sang. She opened with ‘Heaven’ and started by singing ‘Hackney do you recognise me?’ which happened to be well received with screams from the crowd. She played all her hits along with a few album tracks and a medley of Bob Marley songs. I was very impressed with her performance, especially as she is so humble and has worked incredibly hard to get where she is today.
We then had no time to waste as we rushed over to the Main Stage and waited for Brighton boys Rizzle Kicks to grace the stage. As expected they bounded on stage with the energy of two ten year old kids high on E numbers! Their crowd interaction was awesome as friends and fellow musicians Ed Sheeran and Example watched on the stage side. They played hits from their debut album Stereo Typical including my personal favourite ‘Prophet (Better Watch it)’, ‘When I was a Youngster’ and crowd pleaser ‘Down With the Trumpets’. They even included a Will Smith themed rap as dared by Greg James and Huw Stephens along with The James Bond Theme Tune which showcased the duo’s band. Rizzle Kicks were indeed a hard act to follow, but someone had to do it, Example being that act. I didn’t think much of his set. His vocals weren’t amazing as he rattled through all of those club classics such as ‘Midnight Run’ and ‘Kickstarts’. His stage presence bought his performance up by a lot, he was very good with the crowd but other than that I can’t say Example blew me away.
Next up on the Main Stage was the nation’s favourite ginger, knocking
Ron Weasley off the top spot, the fantastic Ed Sheeran. We decided to stay at the Main Stage from Rizzle Kicks onwards in order to get a good view for the headliners later tonight. After half an hour of being surrounded by excited 12-16 year old girls Ed came on stage. The screams commenced. I heard so many girls screaming ‘I love you Ed!’ at the top of their lungs. I guess it does prove that a sickly sweet acoustic album is the way to a girl’s heart. Joking aside, Sheeran exceeded my expectations ten-fold. After humbly admitting this was his biggest outside performance ever he played ‘Give Me Love’, ‘Drunk’ and ‘Lego House’. To my surprise he missed out his new single ‘Small Bump’, perhaps it wasn’t considered festival material. The main reason for being so impressed with him was the fact it was no gimmicks, no band, just him, a guitar and a pedal. Everything we heard was made live by the man himself and that takes some guts. He finished his set with the beautiful ‘A-Team’ and then completed with a 14 minute version of the constantly experimental ‘You Need Me, I Don’t Need You’.
After a quick set up Nicki Minaj was next. Her set was short and sweet lasting only half an hour but she managed to rattle through most of her hits. Her stage presence helped her a lot as she didn’t really sing much of her songs (it was mainly a backing track). When she did rap/sing she performed very well it’s just a shame the live element wasn’t enhanced further than that. Dressed in what appeared to be a leather suit fit with a chastity belt (how ironic) and a mass of blonde hair she looked like a real life Barbie doll. Particular highlight was a new song from album Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, ‘Beez in the Trap’. Paired with four fantastic dancers her set was both exciting and disappointing at the same time. An odd sensation.
Kasabian were next. It was simply a car crash waiting to happen. Whoever thought it was a good idea to slot an indie-rock band between two of the worlds biggest hip-hop/rap artists needs to be shot. There was virtually no crowd involvement and this clearly pissed off front man Tom Meighan as he shouted ‘You lot just don’t give a shit!’ at the crowd. To be fair to them despite the bad reception they did what they do best and performed their greatest hits but did very little to prepare the crowd for Jay Z.
Jay Z came onstage dead on time, not a minute late. I was very
impressed by this compared to last year’s 45 minute wait for Lady Gaga.
It really highlighted how professional he is. The crowd heard it first, Rihanna’s voice ringing out at the start of ‘Run This Town’, she couldn’t possibly be joining Jay Z live on stage?! But she did! Waltzing around the
stage in some Willy Wonka style glasses and black leather she stunned the crowd. What a way to open the show! Jay Z then rattled through a massive 14 of his own greatest hits spanning across all albums, including songs such as ‘Dirt Off Your Shoulder’, ’99 Problems’ and ‘Empire State of Mind’. Jay Z’s second surprise guest came on half way through his set in the form of M.I.A. She sang ‘Paper Planes’ and ‘Bad Girls’ with a lot of swag to say the least. Jay Z then played two more hits and it appeared to a lot of the crowd that this was the end of his set. They were mistaken. An American flag dropped down on the stage and Otis Redding’s ‘Try a Little Tenderness’ rang out. We all knew what we wanted to happen next but I don’t think everyone believed it would. Jay Z pulls surprise guest number 3 out of the bag in the form of the one and only Kanye West as they sang the fantastic ‘Otis’. They played hit after hit from Watch The Throne including ‘No Church in the Wild’ and ‘Lift Off’. Jay Z’s equally incredible wife Beyonce didn’t join them on this song as she was too busy initiating mosh pits in front of the stage with Rizzle Kicks and Edith Bowman. Such a bizarre thing to see. They inevitably finished their set with ‘Niggas In Paris’ but not only did it get the crowd massively excited first time round, the same reaction occurred on the second and third time! Jay Z stopped ‘Paris’ half way through first time to start some mosh circles then excitedly shouted ‘AGAIN!’ to start ‘Paris’ all over again!
From this point onwards Jay Z was ruling the world for me. Masses of respect for him after that performance. Well and truly the greatest rapper the world has ever seen. It’s hard to sum up the experience in words but I left Hackney feeling mind blown.
You can watch videos and see photos from the whole of Hackney Weekend on the BBC Radio 1 website.
Part 2 (Sunday) to follow…