2012: Setting the scene. Last week someone called up at work asking for a number for a label I deal with on a weekly basis. While I was looking for it, the caller started asking me about what was selling, how they used to have a big collection of records. Then they said they used to be a rapper. “Oh yeah” I asked, “what name did you record under?”
“Blade” was their reply. “No way!” was mine.
Here was the gig I reviewed 11 years ago…
MARK B & BLADE @ The Mean Fiddler, London 24/01/01
Re-located from the meaner streets of Harlesden, the Mean Fiddler has replaced the LA2 on Charing Cross Road, the scene of the nights revolution. And with ‘The Unknown’ getting heavy rotation on every show short of Radio 2, Mark B & Blade are in the building for a hostile takeover.
Warming up the pre-fight beers are the Mixologists, your average turntablists who are cutting everything up from KRS 1 getting digital with Goldie to the slightly worrying refrains of ‘when the crowd say bo! Selecta’. Slight technical hitches don’t prevent them getting the crowd worked up ready, teasing us all with the stabs of ‘Simon Says’ and other gems from the past and present.
Next up Phi Life Cypher step it up a gear, throwing it down hard despite their plea for food and money as they “ain’t eaten for 8 days”. These herbalists know how to rock the crowd and their humour and free-style section is one of the highlights of the night. “I can see clearly now the crack smokes gone. Its gonna be a bright – bright weed smoking day” is their message to all the crack heads out there.
Human beatbox and the host for the evening Killa Kela, must go down on record as the loudest performance of the night. Alongside DJ Plus One the beats rain down from his mouth and its definitely heavy artillery all round. Not too sure about the singing though! Plus One cuts it up nicely as the crowd wait for the main bout.
Its taken along time but finally Mark B and Blade are here. Opening up with ‘From The Word Lab’ even initial turntable problems for Mark can’t dampen the high spirits on stage. “I can’t believe we get this, on the most important night of my life!” Blade calls, asking for the assistance of Kela once more. But we’re back on. Alongside Plus One the duo rock the crowd with the likes of ‘One Shark One Piranha’, ‘Hostile Takeover’ (minus Westwood), ‘Ya Don’t See The Signs’ and for ‘The Long Awaited’ Skinnyman joins in the mayhem on stage.
“You gonna catch me?” Blade asks before jumping into the crowd for some surfing.
Back on stage its the turn of his son to do the same. “My boy saw a video of me surfing and he wants a go” cries Blade before his son goes surfing not once but about 3 times, finishing off the first time with a demand to throw Lucozade (before dad steps in with the water) on the crowd.
Before ‘Ya Don’t See The Signs’ Blade demands a “memory I can take to the grave” and after, sitting up on the decks he confesses to getting a bit emotional with the crowds reaction, and why not. The past support slots from everyone from KRS1 to Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine are over and the hard work have paid off.
“Man I’ve been waiting for that response for 12 years” shouts Blade as the crowd show their appreciation, “Maybe I won’t have to sign on every other week now.” The biggest response is of course to ‘The Unknown’ that hopefully should have dented the Top 75 before you read this. Finishing with the ‘Survival Of The Hardest Working,’ its nearly 10 years since the release of the LP of the same name, the fan financed records and Blade and company are definitely loving every minute of it.
Like Blade states through out the evening its a truly great moment for UK hip hop and the start of something bigger. Taskforce round off the night as the cream of the UK scene stand together on one stage. The atmosphere on and off stage is amazing and the venue has sold out showing the possibilities of the what can be achieved if the mainstream press and radio start supporting the home grown talent.
Like The Sex Pistols at the 100 Club, Mark B & Blade at the Mean Fiddler 24/01/01 will be one of the gigs where the amount of people to say they attended, in years to come, will easily exceed the actual capacity of the venue. “Yeah I was there in ’77 or ’88 might easily be replaced with “yeah I was there in 2001”.
Words: Des Berry
Listen: Mark B & Blade – The Unknown