Wretch 32 – review

XOYO, London

He has just had a top 5 hit with Traktor, and his new single, the Stone Roses-sampling Unorthodox, is No 2 in the iTunes chart. So it is not surprising that when Wretch 32 – aka Jermaine Scott – bounds on stage to a surging, anthemic soundtrack, in his bling shades and ornately embossed jacket, it is with the air of a victorious boxer.

Although he grew up on the same Tottenham estate as Chipmunk and has toured with Tinie Tempah, Wretch is more of an old-school rapper, rhyming over samples or performed music. Compared with the cybernetic sheen of grime, his music is warm and organic. There is no DJ; he is flanked by two drummers, a guitarist and a keyboardist. The songs feature dextrous playing, and the audience is accordingly a mix of urban kids who bounce to the beats and sing the choruses, and older types who nod appreciatively at the guitar solos and keyboard filigrees.

This is adult-oriented rap. On the track Air, from Wretch's forthcoming debut album (he has released several mixtapes, earning him favourable tweets from Nicki Minaj and Adele), he is joined by singer-songwriter Owen Cutts, whose soulful vocals add to the sense of traditional musicianly values being upheld. All That I Need, a poignant number about the birth of his son and breakdown of his relationship with the mother, is like hearing someone rapping over a Steely Dan track. There is even a version of For the First Time by Irish power balladeers the Script.

The too-brief half-hour set ends more fiercely, with Wretch freestyling over the crunching guitars of Jay-Z's 99 Problems, and then a rousing Traktor. As the crowd chant the "lifestyle's wild/Jeremy Kyle" rhyme, and the musos delight in the guitar-drum interplay, it becomes clear Wretch is an engaging character who offers something for everyone.


Paul Lester

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Wretch 32: Black and White – review
Tottenham rapper Wretch 32's new album is certainly topical – but not much more, says Alex Macpherson

Alex Macpherson

18, Aug, 2011 @2:30 PM

Wiley – review
Wiley attempted to reassert his fierce independence with a speed-rapped megamix of his career, writes Mark Beaumont

Mark Beaumont

22, Apr, 2013 @5:08 PM

Article image
Dave review – London's most emotionally intelligent teenager
The 19-year-old rapper from Streatham weaves politics and interpersonal struggle in between his bangers – and carries his young audience with him

Dan Hancox

04, Dec, 2017 @1:16 PM

Article image
Tinie Tempah review – A brash show with odd moments of intimacy

Tempah says he wants to make 'deeper music' after battling with the notion of selling out, but there are few signs of hidden depths amid this ear-splitting performance, writes Dave Simpson

Dave Simpson

30, Mar, 2014 @3:23 PM

Article image
Afropunk review – afrofuturism gets anthemic at festival of booming black creativity
Printworks, London
JME, Nadia Rose, Nao, Lianne La Havas, Willow Smith and Corinne Bailey Rae all came together at a diverse celebration of black culture

Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff

24, Jul, 2017 @3:37 PM

Article image
J Hus review – shirtless stage dives and novelty dance moves
The raucous British-Gambian MC wasn’t above confronting the crowd, but what he really wanted was to get them moving in sync

Malcolm Jack

17, May, 2017 @12:24 PM

Article image
Field Day festival review – a collective roar in the face of the storm
A lineup including Skepta, Deerhunter, James Blake and PJ Harvey prove more than able to banish wet weather blues with warm and powerful performances

Dorian Lynskey

13, Jun, 2016 @12:24 PM

Article image
Wireless review – global rap stars give London weekender a clear message
With a lineup that offered an up-to-the-minute survey of the transatlantic rap and grime scene, this contrary festival may have finally found a USP to hang on to

Hannah J Davies

10, Jul, 2017 @1:24 PM

Article image
Lady Leshurr review – ingenious freestyler combines mischief, wit and expert comic timing
The West Midlands rapper is a real original, irresistibly talented, making her own deft commentary on life

David Bennun

27, Feb, 2017 @11:39 AM

Article image
Wretch 32: Upon Reflection review
The rapper’s fifth album deals with gender and mental health issues, and with a refreshing new musical looseness

Aimee Cliff

18, Oct, 2019 @7:10 AM