WHAT WENT DOWN AT KWAME’S SOLD OUT HEADLINE SHOW IN SYDNEY
Words by Christopher Kevin Au // Images by Chris Loutfy
Back in 2016, I dropped my debut single 'Chinatown Champs', which kickstarted my illustrious rap career that lasted just over four weeks.
To this day, I tell people that 'Chinatown Champs' was the biggest underground hip-hop anthem of 2016; in reality, it was a half-baked joke track where I compared myself to Jay Z and sampled Pauline Hanson. Some took my song more seriously than others, which included the promoters at Club 77, who invited me down there to perform a 15 minute set. The only problem was that I only had one whole song in my catalogue which ran for 3 minutes, and that left a gaping 12 minute hole in my debut performance.
To fix the issue, I called upon my old Tongan mate Phil Fresh. I knew he was a charismatic and lively fellow who could spit bars, and I invited him to come onstage with me to do a few tracks. He agreed, and in the week before the show, he mentioned that he had a friend who could also help me avoid getting booed off by intoxicated punters: Kwame. At the time, I knew Kwame as the guy who jumped onstage at ASAP Ferg's Sydney show. For those who don't know, back in 2016, Kwame was picked out from the crowd by ASAP Ferg midway through a gig. He was then told to freestyle, and he basically tore the fucking roof off. iPhone footage of his appearance went viral, to the point where everyone was going crazy trying to put a name to this kid.
So of course, I was more than happy for Kwame to have his own slice of my 15 minute set. We eventually did this gig and it was abit of a laugh for everyone there, but Kwame did smash it on that fateful night at Club 77. Since then, his career trajectory has been nothing short of insane: He's played alongside everyone from grime favourites like Skepta, to trap mega-stars like Migos, to dancefloor melters like Peking Duk; proving that his high-energy brand of rap can travel across genres with ease. He was the most played artist on triple j Unearthed in 2018, and performed at the station's One Night Stand gig in front of 20,000 attendees. His Endless Conversations EP was one of our favourites from last year, and it looks like most of Australia agrees, because he's been putting up rock solid streaming numbers since.
All of that leads us to this moment: Kwame's Clouds tour, which kicks off at Oxford Art Factory in Sydney. Importantly, this is Kwame's biggest sold out headline show in his hometown, which makes tonight a very special occasion for all involved. It's an accolade, a moment, and more proof that the local hip-hop scene is ready to bust down doors with force. After tunes from Latifa Tee on the decks, Arno Faraji took the stage to warm things up. I saw the young Perth talent jump onstage with Tkay Maidza for a track at Falls Festival, and his full set is equally as enjoyable: Slick electronic production, lively vocals that feel nonchalant, and by the end of the set, Arno has the whole crowd swaying in unison. Very good, two thumbs up.
And then it's time for the main event. Kwame comes onstage wearing speed dealers, so he obviously has something to prove. He launches into 'No Time' and doesn't let up from there: It's an adrenaline rush of a set that reaches the stratosphere when Phil Fresh jumps onstage, performing their playful duet 'Sonic Dash'. But Phil is only one special guest for the evening, because Sydney songstress Mel Bailey also makes her way to OAF to perform down-tempo duet 'Coffee' with Kwame. It's a more melodic route that Kwame commands with equal confidence, before taking things back to hard-headed territory with 'Clouds' and 'Wow' - and by this point, the floor is bouncing unapologetically.
With everyone leaving the venue sweat-drenched, things aren't over yet: There's an afterparty across the road at some venue with weird laser lighting. For those who missed out on the sold out show, Kwame takes the stage for the second time to perform. After that, we head next door to Oporto and get a Bondi burger, the only way to end a solid night. From here, Kwame will be bringing the 'Clouds' tour across the country, before representing Australia at SXSW in March. Get 'em.