Glasgow on a Thursday night, it’s 9.30pm and there’s a fresh chill in the air. in the heart of the city, overlooking a strip of road affectionately referred to as ‘Glasvegas’ for its bars, takeaways and bright, flickering lights as I’m told by a passer by, there’s nothing to report home about; on the surface, it’s business as usual.
Seemingly unbeknownst to the student crowds starting to gather at various points along the road, Broadcast — upstairs, a relaxed bar serving cocktails with episode after episode of The Simpsons playing on a large projector and downstairs, a tiny, low-ceilinged basement sweatbox — is soon to play host to Red Bull Studios’ #BeatRoots grime showcase.
The #BeatRoots project, brainchild of Scottish grime producer Polonis and Astral Black’s Rapture 4D, saw the producers link with London beatmakers, DJs and MCs old-and-new to build an 11-track mixtape designed to give the city’s emerging grime scene some plenty warranted shine. Tonight, they were bringing the whole thing together, live and unplugged.
Making the 413 mile trip up were iconic DJs Spooky and Grandmixxer and some of London’s brightest and best spitters in Jammz, YGG, Capo Lee, C-Cane and scene vets Flirta D and Jendor, all of whom were involved in collaborating on the tape over the last few months. Repping for Glasgow were Polonis and Rapture 4D, alongside breakout Scottish MCs Shogun, Ransom FA and Chrissy Grimez, and DJ/producers Kami-O and K4CIE.
Making my way downstairs, navigating the low-ceilings and arching staircase before bumping into Polonis and Rapture fresh from doing interviews in a cramped green room upstairs, it quickly became clear how special this all felt. The space, although small, was perfect; the low ceilings, dark, dank feel and small, cluttered stage were prime conductors for grime’s unique, live energy.
Kami-O, Shogan, Ransom FA and Chrissy Grimez were first up as I watched from backstage, before venturing out onto the floor. Hyper-energetic, they implored a rapidly swelling crowd into wild, fist-bumping frenzies and gun-finger salutes, the mix of live bars and quick-fire mixing quickly winning over everyone in the room. More bizarrely for an outsider like me, they drew the first chants of ‘’ere we, ‘ere we, ‘ere we fucking go!’ too — a truly Glaswegian seal of approval.
K4CIE was next on deck, providing the foil for first guest C-Cane to lace a monstrous live PA featuring an impromptu mosh pit of sorts, before YGG and their DJ, Travis T, turned the club upside down chalking off hits like ‘3 IC3s’, ‘Bad’ and their remix of Sir Spyro’s ‘Side By Side’ — for all the performances on the night, it was theirs that truly ignited the dance.
Polonis was next up, going b2b with master of chops and the side-on DJ stance, Grandmixxer, as Flirta D sipped from a bottle and shouted some of his legendary ad-libs towards the decks in approval. Huddled together, pouring drinks and catching up with their Scottish counterparts, London’s grime crew were holding court backstage, peering through the thick, floor-to-ceiling drapes to catch glimpses of each other’s sets and weigh up the crowd — as new as this all was to Glasgow, the buzz behind-the-scenes was palpable too.
Capo Lee, now a well-oiled performer with a catalog of singalong grime bangers under his belt, was an instant hit — ‘Mud’ got pulled at least 3 times — before Spooky, one of the best grime DJs to ever live, and Rapture 4D joined forces for their b2b, with Jammz on mic. By this point, the crowd had bridged peak hype levels, tempered by the pair’s track selection on deck, which included a borderline apocalyptic Spooky dub of Sir Spyro’s ‘Topper Top’; at this point, a few of us backstage were shaking our heads in appreciative disbelief.
Wandering back into the crowd, by now sporting sweat-soaked faces and tiring limbs, Flirta D had taken to the mic, hypnotising those at the front with an onslaught of acapella voice effects that seemed to suspend us all in space and time. A sudden pat on the shoulder brought me firmly back into the room, as Spooky breezed past, stopping to say hello to two young lads who’d tapped him on the back. As he turned away, I heard one say to the other in a strong Glaswegian accent, “That’s Spooky … he’s a big name, I got into grime through him!”
As the night started to wind down, I headed backstage to say my goodbyes before facing the prospect of another five-hour train journey back to London in the morning. For Polonis, Rapture 4D and the rest of Glasgow’s blossoming grime scene, it’d had been a night of dreams realised. Grime might be new to the majority of the city, but tonight #BeatRoots had given it a strong footing — and with it, another welcome chance for grime to thrive outside of London.
Words: Tomas Fraser
Featured Images: Ryan Johnson, Rianna Tamara
For more information on Red Bull Studio’s Beat Roots project head here.