Rza - Subterrania, Westbourne Park, 19/08/2001

From: Fish
Category: Other stuff
Date: 22 August 2001


If having a group with 10 members all releasing solo albums wasn't confusing enough, the Wu-Tang Clan's producer/rapper/mentor Rza records his solo albums in the character of his alter ego Bobby Digital. Bobby is a hard-drinking, hard-smoking, womanising flip-side to the Rza's samurai code studying, chess playing ways who is brought into existence after Rza dips his joints in a secret elixir (a Nutty Professor/Buddy Love for the projects). After 1998's "Rza as Bobby Digital in Stereo" album, his new album "Digital Bullet" is to be released this month.

It is promotion for the new album that brings the Rza to the salubrious settings of Westbourne Park's Subterrania for a one-off UK show. Subterrania is located underground beneath a railway bridge next to a Playstation skateboard park and the slightly grimy settings fit perfectly with the stripped down rugged beats pioneered back in the early nineties by the Wu-Tang giving the evening an underground feel (no mean feat for a multi-million selling artist).

Doors open at seven and the first support act, UK duo Bronze & Black, perform to the rap equivalent of one man and his dog - their mates and around 50-100 early arrivals. Suffering from early technical difficulties (a skipping CD player) they perform freestyles and ryhme over the DJs instrumentals in admirable fashion getting the evening off to a promising start.

Bronze & Black are followed by UK MC Ty. He gets the swelling crowd moving with his DJ spinning some of the better-known UK hiphop tracks (including the excellent new Roots Manuva single "Witness (One Hope)" - you'd never get Puff Daddy rhyming about cheese on toast!). Ty is evidence of the ever increasing quality of the UK scene but the crowd have come to see Rza (and he seems to get a little irritated by the frequent shouts for "Wu-Tang"). As the crowd's anticipation grew, in true hiphop fashion we were told by Ty every ten minutes that the Rza would be on "soon", "in ten minutes", "in twenty minutes", etc. but the atmosphere was maintained with the DJ playing ever harder US hits, Redman's latest track "Lets Get Dirty" leading to an impromptu mosh amongst the rowdier elements.

Finally, at some time after ten, Rza took the stage his charisma and confidence soon winning over the crowd. Mixing old tracks off the "Rza as Bobby Digital in Stereo" album ("B.O.B.B.Y.", "Domestic Violence") with new tracks ("Bobby Did It", "The Rhumba") together with the occasional verse from older Wu-Tang hits ("Reunited", "C.R.E.A.M."), each is rapturously received with pumping fists. Taking time out before the new tracks to set out the chorus to aid crowd participation (even if it is the morally dubious chant of "My Glock goes pop, pop, pop") avoids the usual scenario of tours to promote unreleased albums where the new tracks are a cue to head to the bar. Crowd participation is taken to new levels when Rza invites some "ladies" from the crowd to join him on stage for new single "The Rhumba" - with Rza/Bobby Digital leading the chant of "take it off", and even lending a hand, two of the "ladies" bare their breasts to an appreciative audience. All of a sudden it started reminding me of "Tenerife Uncovered" on educational channel Sky One.

After an accapella rap about his journey as a sperm to fertilise his mother's egg and a rendition of "Domestic Violence" with the mic stand and towel representing his "bitch" in the track (Rza taking a moment to explain the difference between "bitches" and "strong ladies" though I think he'll have to run that one past me again), evidently a hectic work and touring schedule (together with no weed for the previous five days, apparently) were taking their toll and he invited some of the many UK MCs to take the mic. Although of a generally high quality many a welcome was outstayed making the evening drag a little and then as quickly as he'd appeared Rza was gone.

The night continued with DJing but I'm afraid I've no idea what they were like as it was Sunday 11.15p.m. and I was in Westbourne Park needing to get back to S.E. London to face the week ahead.

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