Walking down the stairs into Stereo 92 I was greeted by a cozy setting of chairs and candlelit tables shadowing the stage, unaware that in a few moments the intimate space would feel far from small as it became chock-full of huge voices, personalities and creative forces that transformed the close quarters into auditory heaven.
I can only describe Word on the Street as a lyricist’s home away from home. The venue brimmed with an unrivalled sense of community and family, a relaxed vibe that is owed to the charismatic, delightful duo hosting tonight’s affair – Shay D and Kingpin.
What made this particular Word on the Street even more compelling was the concentrated effort the organizers put in on giving female artists the recognition, visibility and appreciation that is sincerely deserved but often lacking within the industry, and the remarkable lineup that lied in store was carefully crafted to reflect this goal.
The personable Shay wasted no time finding seats for audience members and ensuring their comfort as bodies started flooding in. The night commenced with an open mic session, where a hospitable and cheering audience welcomed timid first timers to the stage just as encouragingly as they did the more experienced artists, assuaging any nervousness and giving everyone the confidence to express themselves and their creativity freely.
Vocalists with liquid velvet voices bookended the open mic. A hypnotizing acapella opened up the floor to wordsmiths who explored themes ranging from politics to race to mental health in mesmerizing and engaging ways, with a few elegant and tactful commentaries on the darkness that seems to be surrounding the world today.
I was left feeling humbled, but also comforted and grateful that such a supportive and safe space as Word on the Street exists – one that gives those who are frustrated, inspired and generally hungry to share a voice, a platform and opportunity to speak their truths.
The crowd comprised of beautiful souls not only from all over London but from across the UK. One of the evening’s headliners – TrueMendous, travelled from up North especially for the event, breathing passion into the mic as soon as her fingers wrapped around it. The Birmingham bred MC stunned and stirred the crowd as she assertively commanded the stage with a flawless delivery of boundary-pushing lyricism and flow that incited audible gasps, whispers of “wow”s and applause from the listeners.
The second headliner was the magnetic Desree who’s colorful and evocative rhetoric was rich in rhythm and rhyme. Her performance was punctuated with moments of candor and achingly honest narratives, piquing the audience’s curiosity and striking the balance between deeply personal, thought provoking content and biting wit perfectly.
Shay D and Kingpin initially launched the night with the aim to cross-pollinate spoken word and hip hop, and you only need to look back at the illustrious record of their past four events to see that they’ve achieved just that and more. Word on the Street fuses the two symbiotic art forms seamlessly and magically, and the ever-growing attendance and wonderfully eclectic and diverse talent that’s showcased on stage reflects the success of the event.
I can’t find enough words to illustrate the infectious energy and electrifying atmosphere of the evening I had. I truly believe that Shay D and Kingpin are successfully reinventing the future of spoken word and hip hop nights in refreshing and dynamic ways, and you would undoubtedly be remiss not to cop a ticket next months shindig which will be held on March 2nd in it’s new, bigger home in Old Street:
Words and images by Anya Angert