Live Report: Clavish – O2 Academy Islington, London

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At the top of ‘Fashion Week Freestyle’, Clavish strolls into his verse comfortably, honest of the obstacles that his career’s faced thus far:  “I’m a laid back rapper, I don’t get many shows”. It’s for this exact reason that two sold-out nights at O2 Islington Academy is a big deal for the Stamford Hill riser, a milestone that stamps out his early material’s concerns.

As much as Clavish is the kind of rapper who sets himself apart from his peers, indifferent to public validation or appearances – there’s nothing quite like stepping into a packed out venue. Measuring his crowd, the artist’s face beams as he looks up to a string of fans, calling from the balconies. Rehearsing them into a chant for opening track ‘Rap Game Awful’, he continues to snowball into the steady menace of ‘No Difference’.

It’s worth noting the distinctive energy and hunger that O2 Islington Academy brings to the table, a venue that primes next-up talent before they’re too far out of reach. It’s performances as such that capture why these middle-ground spaces, small yet critical cogs to an artist’s rise, must be protected at all costs.

Breaking away from the more conscious, subdued bangers, the evening takes its first turn.

“I’m tryna get jumpy!”

Diving head first into the ever-so relevant ‘Sold Out Dates,’ the rapper commands his crowd with ease, some crashing into mosh pits, others religiously citing back each and every bar. It’s a track that pins down the rapper’s craft, ensuring his delivery and flows are just as hard-hitting in a live context to their original recordings. Even when catching a breath between his rhymes, Clavish jumps back in with complete control, conscious of the skill that makes up a rap performance.

Tracks like ‘Monday To Sunday’ are equally telling of the rapper’s formula, following the footsteps of those who once laid the foundations of UK Rap. It’s a return to more gritty, focussed lyricism that packs a punch, no gimmicks or distractions. Quick-fire TikTok moments are swapped out for dense, calculated verses, and the Gen Z are surprisingly here for it. As Fredo emerges from the shadows, one can’t help but draw comparisons between the two, generational forces – akin to an unnerving swagger and composure, absorbing their production with an assured, leisurely flow.

Plenty more UK Rap figureheads are in the building tonight – from Mostack, Tiny Boost, Youngs Teflon, Tiggs Da Author and Rimzee. Colliding forces for a highlight performance of ‘4 Of Us,’ it’s a family affair that demands numerous re-loads, winning over its crowd each and every time. Drawing the evening to a close with fresh material, there’s a celebratory buzz that lingers as the lights go up and the stage empties. 

At the end of the day, Clavish is currently your favourite rapper’s favourite rapper. For many, they would’ve first stumbled upon the voice on Nine’s 2020 album ‘Crabs In A Bucket’ – a feature that, quite frankly, speaks for itself. Sprinkling performances here and there across the festival season, this UK tour is sure to be one of many. No teething issues – just Clavish’s iced-out grin, securing a standout night for the future of UK Rap.

Words: Ana Lamond