K-Trap review – lyrical artistry and deft crowd control from drill pioneer

Gorilla, Manchester
The big energy on show from both the rapper and his audience suggests they all know they may never share such a small venue again, as the star sits poised for breakthrough success

K-Trap, AKA 27-year-old drill pioneer Devonte Perkins, used to perform wearing a balaclava, which the rapper has explained wasn’t to avoid surveillance or look like a wrong’un, but a tool to let him develop his artistry without people knowing who he was. The decision paid off. Recent mixtape The Last Whip II landed in the Top 20, Stormzy is a fan and K-Trap’s releases have featured Giggs, Fredo and Skepta. All of which has left the Londoner somewhere between underground and mainstream: playing smaller venues, but selling them all out.

The rapper bounds on stage in Manchester after a DJ build up (“Everyone say K … Trap!”) and plainly never needed the mask for visual impact. In a white jacket, he’s charismatic and confident. “Manny, I love that energy,” he yells to the city. The teenage prisoner turned reformed rapper offers raw, unflinching detail about gangland with a bone-dry sense of humour. In Spoilt, he yells “When we got caught, we caught amnesia”, while Manners helpfully describes politely letting an old lady pass by when carrying a “tool”.

K-Trap is flanked by two security men, which seems theatrical – a budget version of Public Enemy’s Security of the First World – until there’s an incident in the crowd. One of them leaps off and a young man is carried from the venue in a headlock. The disturbance – and the rapper’s fruitless pleas for calm – seem to momentarily shake the artist, but he rescues the situation well (“we want good vibes here”) and the crowd remain behind him.

The music – a minimalist mix of drill and trap, key lines jabbed home by heavy bass – can get samey and he still needs more anthems to make a bigger breakthrough. Still, Molly Mae (performed with London rapper Youngs Teflon), Big Mood and Warm go down a storm and the audience know all the words. “Felt like it was all eyes on me against the world,” artist and crowd yell together: he shouldn’t feel like that any more.

• At Warehouse SWG3, Glasgow, 24 November. Then touring until 29 November.


Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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