1xtra Live ReviewBy Editor
Birmingham has always had a close tie to urban music, with a decorated scene that can be traced back to its part to play in the UK’s ska and reggae scene in the 60s and 70s, all the way up to today’s grime SBTV favourites like Sox and JayKae.
So what better place to host 1xtra Live’s one-off music extravaganza at the canal side venue, the National Indoor Arena.
Kicking off proceedings (after a delightful warm-up segment from DJ Sigma) was American R&B talent, Tinashe, with a polished vocal performance, punctuated by an array of seamless dance routines. An absent A$AP Rocky to fulfill his rapping duties on recent single Pretend didn’t seem to matter, as the crowd were dazzled by he appearance regardless.
Lethal Bizzle was next to wow the 10,000 strong audience and was in his usual hyperactive form, but had decided on his set being a little different than the norm. Rather than playing his most recent releases, the Biz decided on performing a timeline of his ten year career, including his 2004 modern classic Pow (Forward).
Next to perform, and bringing with them a confident swagger to the arena, was Krept and Konan, who could probably claim the title of first universal singalong of the night with their blunt favourite Don’t Waste My Time, featuring appearances from Wretch 32, Yungen and Fekky.
It must have felt like a victory lap for Skepta, his little brother JME and the happiest rapper in the game, Jammer AKA Murkleman as Boy Better Know have had a truly successful year: a storming set at this year's Culture Clash, a top 10 single in the UK Dance chart and most recently a linkup with A$AP Bari. Commencing their set with Two Many Man, they then followed it up by perhaps the year’s biggest UK urban anthem That’s Not Me, which energised the throng, who by this point had swarmed around the stage rather than the designating seating.
What more can one say about Rick Ross that hasn't been said? Well, apparently Charlie Sloth had a few things on his mind, as he was given the honour of announcing him to the stage (before a hilarious segment which included the DJ’s very own private jet entitled the Sloth Pod).
Sporting a fetching blue hat and scarf combination, the crowd was enraptured by the big man’s big and bold trap anthems, including his debut 2006 single Hustlin’ and ending with the Drake-featuring club banger, I’m On One.
Bringing the house down was of course the one and only Mary J. Blige who made sure Birmingham knew why she was the headline act. It was hit after hit with a scorching rendition of Family Affair that brought the night to a close in splendid fashion.
I’m not sure where 1xtra Live will be taken to next year, but the night attracted thousands from the city, as well as non-natives, and if they can acquire the same level of talent for 2015, then there will definitely be a nationwide battle for host. Let’s just hope the crowd will be able to match the same level of enthusiasm that was present in the NIA.