Rizzle Kicks – review

Roundhouse, London
Rizzle Kicks's digs against Jeremy Kyle and John Terry offer high points in a gig that plays out like a school talent show

Two-thirds of the way through Rizzle Kicks's show, the duo bring support act and fellow Sylvia Young alumnus, Eliza Doolittle, back on stage for The Reason I Live, a jazz-pastiche duet at odds with the boisterous, ska-inflected hip-hop that forms the backbone of their sound. Doolittle, Young's granddaughter and the epitomy of privileged pop, had earlier underwhelmed by being overwrought and lightweight. As she hams it up with a cartoonishly squeaky vocal, you suddenly realise it's less like a gig than a school talent show, and this has been true of the whole performance.

Rizzle Kicks are the logical conclusion to British hip-hop's belated acceptance within UK pop culture. Is it possible for anything to be popular in this country without being reduced to light entertainment, with eager-to-please cheesiness barely disguising a fear of offending any demographic? In a recent Twitter spat, grime's grumpy godfather Wiley accused the duo of aiming only to become TV presenters, and there's an element of truth in this. They're likable and enthusiastic in a way that Wiley could never be, but they play it so safe – with naff DJ scratching on Wind Up, presumably to signify hip-hop culture, and bland everyboy sentiments that befit Olly Murs collaborators – that their jollity is enervating. Their biggest hit, Mama Do the Hump, feels like the ultimate office-party anthem.

There are bright spots: Lost Generation, with its digs at Jeremy Kyle and John Terry and, even better, its stance against slut-shaming – "What's wrong if a girl loves sex? It's only wrong if it's not with you" – feels like a Trojan horse of radicalism. Throughout, Rizzle Kicks's sharp eye for the quotidian adds some depth to their cheeky-chappie personae. But this is unexciting, CBBC pop-rap. It's harmless enough, but the sooner Rizzle Kicks get on with their true calling of presenting a Saturday-evening, family-friendly talent show, the better.


Alex Macpherson

The GuardianTramp

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