Okasian & B-Free - London concert poster

[Review] Currency Exchange Show #1: Okasian and B-Free

In Concert Review, Reviews by Lena

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On Tuesday, November 17, the global city of London was the place to be for European fans of Korean hiphop. Hi-Lite Records’ Okasian and B-Free had come for a visit, joined by a “Very Special Guest” in their quest to “spread peace and love,” as B-Free put it.
Read on for a detailed review of the Currency Exchange Show #1 organized by Cult of Ya which I attended as part of the press.

The show was Okasian and B-Free’s first time in London, yet it was not London’s first time hosting a Korean hiphop artist as Dok2 had already performed there in 2011. Scene of the event this time around was Ace Hotel‘s night club Miranda with its dazed but somehow cozy atmosphere.

The bar at Ace Hotel’s night club Miranda

Entrance to the venue started a little late due to a malfunctioning DJ kit from Korea, which “got […] sorted McGuyver style,” as the organizer stated on the event’s Facebook page. Luckily, as part of the press I was already inside the venue one hour earlier and thus able to escape the hassles of waiting in line outside in the cold.
As the club started to fill with people, the elegant Red Pig Flower got everyone in the right mood with her smooth DJ set.

Red Pig Flower

Next up were more local artists: Jungle Gang, Joe Jas, Zone 17, and Macca Wiles. Several among them were sporting Hi-Lite hoodies, which made me nod along to their music in envy (sadly, no Hi-Lite merchandise or CDs were being sold at the show). I did not know any of the artists as I mainly listen to Khiphop, but many others in the audience did know them and screamed and rapped along full-throatedly, and I must say I did enjoy most of their performances, especially those of Jungle Gang and Zone 17.

While I was standing in the very front row at the beginning of the show, as time passed and artists went on and off stage, I was pushed back farther and farther, as you might have noticed while watching the footage above. The crowd was not very civilized; soon I found myself elbowed, headbutted, and barely escaping the fist of a girl next to me who raised her arms eagerly. Before I knew, I was standing at the back of the crowd and had missed the performances of Freshberry and Darq E Freaker because I had been too concentrated on staying unharmed. Mind you, I have no idea if they even performed at all (no, I was not drunk).
At the latest when Macca Wiles came on stage, joined briefly by the main acts B-Free and Okasian, the crowd went completely crazy and people were pushed on the nearly ground-level stage which had no barriers of any sort. Security personnel had to rush in to help, and even B-Free’s countless friendly requests to “Calm the fuck down” were of little use.
Visibility-wise, the venue itself was very good so that one should have been able to see the artists on stage even from the far back. However, by the time “Green Kawasaki” resounded from the speakers, phones and arms blocked the front view and overzealous cameramen had surrounded the artists on stage, blocking the sight from left and right. In the end, all I could see was the face of the very tall security guy rising above the crowd who did not look too amused in his position. So I made myself comfortable on one of the soft seatings in the back, watched people dance, cameras flash, and enjoyed the music.
However, fear not, I did take some videos of the Hi-Lite members! Thanks to Cult of Ya, I had the opportunity to watch the rehearsals which were sheer luxury as I could unobstructedly film full shots of DJ Djanga, Okasian, B-Free, and the special guest. Although the video is missing the crowd and the turned-up atmosphere of a concert, you can instead get a taste of what happens behind the scenes, something which we fans do not get to see every day.

If you would like to see videos of the performances and behind-the-scenes pictures of the artists in London, head over to Cult of Ya’s Twitter. There are also links to other reviews so you can form yourself a better view on the event.

The mysterious special guest

Yes, you might have already guessed it from the blurry picture above: the “Very Special Guest” was none other than Hi-Lite Records’ CEO Paloalto! He DJ’ed at the afterparty into the early morning.

DJ Djanga and Paloalto

DJ Djanga and Paloalto during the rehearsal

The Korean artists brought us the best of their latest releases and hits, from “It G Ma” (which they played at least twice if I am not mistaken) to unreleased (!) songs produced, written, and performed by B-Free. Against my faint hopes, they performed lots of trap and none of their older tracks, aside from Okasian’s “Spread the Word“.
B-Free did not miss out on giving away free t-shirts and the crowd went nuts as he distributed them, making him shout: “It’s just a shirt!” He also stated his solidarity with Paris along with the message that they simply came to London to spread peace and love, which the crowd embraced with appreciating cheers and applause. One guy in the audience who was standing in the front must have had a few drinks too much or was just overwhelmed by all the love for he attempted to reciprocate it in form of a kiss. It was crazy.

Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the afterparty due to logistical issues, but several people said that they had had a great time.

Although I did miss out on some parts of the event, and organization-wise there was room for improvement here and there, it was a great experience. The venue staff were all very friendly and helpful; needless to say, but the artists were super nice as well; and despite some people being slightly “violent,” the overall crowd was fun too. I met a bunch of wonderful European Khiphop fans; shout-out to Maria, to Soompi’s Cream (if you know French, read her insightful review here), and especially to Tiffany for supporting me spontaneously by being my photographer! Merci les filles !

 


It is not an actual part of this review, yet I cannot not mention the extra “intimate” show which took place at Visions Video Bar on Sunday, November 15, two days before the Currency Exchange Show. The event was announced on very short notice (only three days earlier) with actually very good intentions: since the Currency Exchange Show was sold out and many people did not get any tickets, the Welcome Party was supposed to make up for it. For some reasons however (most probably the short notice, not enough promotions, the event taking place on a Sunday), very few people attended. At one point there were more people on stage than in front of it, so calling it an “intimate” show was no PR stunt. Probably everyone came the artists very near at one point, either when everyone stood outside of the venue, smoking in unison, or when Okasian and B-Free decided to get off stage and jump around in the middle of the audience. All kinds of things flew through the air, from cellphones over blood (luckily no serious injuries were inflicted) to sparks of love.


 

Judging from what I have heard and read so far, the great majority of everyone who attended had a huge load of fun at the Currency Exchange Show (and at the Welcome Party). And I can only agree, despite having preferred better security and organization for the sake of the audience and the artists. That way, I would not have had to worry about surviving the crowd but could have fully enjoyed all the performances instead. Actually seeing the artists during the show would have been a plus too, but to be honest I am in no position to complain since I got to meet and watch them at the extra “intimate” show and during rehearsals.

Last but not least, huge thanks go out to Cult of Ya for making this review possible!
I dare claim that Europe wants more Khiphop, and I cannot wait to find out what Cult of Ya have got up their sleeve for us next!

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