I unfortunately missed most of the support. Honourable mention goes to Razorrawks, Preston’s very own, broad accented Hip Hopper. Other support came from Roman Scott and computer game inspired Hip Hop act Mega Ran.
B. Dolan is a big guy, and he has a definite stage presence. The trademark low lighting of The Ferret providing a glow around a broad shouldered, bearded, sunglasses wearing man rhyming into a microphone. To quote his songs, he does look like a bad motherfucker. From the off it is a great performance, there is a certain aggressiveness in his delivery, but not like Eminem or other angry young rappers; it is more a delivery full of conviction and a certain down played swagger.
It is almost as if the crowd need to warm up to the headliner and vice versa, because although there isn’t a poorly performed track, the show slowly builds in momentum, getting better as each track bumps along. Stay Inspired lets B. Dolan flex his more traditional b-boy influenced style, while Natural Born Trouble is a great display of his appeal as an ‘indie’ rapper, a tag which perhaps carries more weight and cause for discussion in the US, but here in the UK it just helps make for a brilliant show.
As Buddy Peace cuts and chops a transition between tracks, the lights go down and we move into Safety Theatre, a much darker and more atmospheric track, with low end bass that literally makes the hairs on my arm stand on end. Safety Theatre thumps so much harder live than on record, and lyrically it is another string to B. Dolans bow, a song that is socially and politically motivated. After this track, B. Dolan stops proceedings and asks for ALL the lights to be turned down, including behind the bar. He prompts everyone to get their phones out and to shine their screens/torches at the stage before launching into Film The Police, a song which despite being dropped in 2012 has managed to remain current due to last years events in Ferguson and similar acts of police insanity continuing this year. This, coupled with the fact that it takes obvious cues from that song by NWA, which is now obviously everyones favourite rap song thanks to the film Straight Outta Compton.
As this track draws to an end, Buddy Peace proves he is not here simply as a backing guy to press a couple of buttons, which is sometimes the impression I am left with by live hip hop DJ’s. Buddy Peace is great live, and here he chops in a few bars from KRS One's 'Sound Of Da Police', mixes into Max Romeo’s ‘Chase The Devil’ before sliding into the beat for B. Dolans next track ‘The Devil Is Alive’, a critique of Rick Ross (both of them!) and the rap fantasy of ‘sell drugs, get money’.
‘Alright’, is far from that, it is brilliant with its jazz break drums and juddering bass, before another change in mood for the eerily brilliant ‘Who Killed Russell Jones’, B. Dolans ode to one of his favourite rappers Old Dirty Bastard. He doesn’t dwell on these more stoic moments, re-igniting the good vibe of the gig with ‘Rats Get Fat’ which utilises the same drum sample from Billy Squier, made famous by Dizzee Rascals 'Fix Up Look Sharp'. There is even a halt to normal proceedings assupport act Roman Scott beatboxes while Raheem from Mega Ran and B. Dolan have a freestyle session.
This was a great performance, and proves what a rare talent B. Dolan is. There is so much content and diversity to his work, and all that shines in a live setting. A vocal style that fuses all his influences together - there are spoken word and slam poetry sections, there are classic b-boy influences, and modern indie rap influences such as Atmosphere and Aesop Rock, yet it is delivered in a style that is most definitely B. Dolan. Lyrically he can make you laugh and make you think. One minute he is a rapper with a bad attitude, the next he is casting a very astute, critical eye over hip hop culture, and then he is discussing social and political issues, all the while he never coming across as arrogant or preachy. He deserves to be huge, but I am thankful that he has maintained that underground sort of reputation, because he may not have come to Preston otherwise. I think we have Scoobious Pip to partially thank for that, but a special shout must go to the guys at The Ferret. This was a great show, myself and my drinking buddies were surprised at how something this good was happening in our town. Preston should do more Hip Hop gigs, there’s a lot of us that would show up for every show. just saying…