Out The Frame is an all-dayer I was waiting for months ahead. The event proved itself as exceptional, even though one of the artists I wanted to see most, Moor Mother, cancelled due it illness.
Belgians Stikstof gather full room and get a great response from the audience. I believe they could have easily been the headliners of the night, so intense their performance is. My limited Dutch does not allow me to dive fully into the lyrics of Stikstof, but it is clear - the band takes social issues and the current political situation in Brussels seriously. Stikstof shows a well-deserved middle finger to the police and the bureaucratic machine of the capital. Whereas the vocal ranges of the MCs are largely same, it is never boring to listen to their stories. They complement each other, producing strong captivating choruses that resemble chants of rebel military forces. In contrast to the raw energy and (legit) aggression coming from the MCs, DJ Vega delivers slow soothing beats. Littered with ambient elements, Vega's sublime tunes are floating in the room. What surprises me most, however, are the highly complex and artistic visuals produced by Gogolplex. Glitchy and trippy, the live imagery by Gogolplex are not just a background but a massive addition to the show.
Open Mike Eagle, photo Michiel Devijver
There is something exclusive and refreshing about Wwwater. Charlotte immediately impresses us with her vocal range that could easily be compared to Beyonce or Erykah Badu. Melodies range from uplifting and pop-leaning to raw and punky. The drummer mixes live and digital, switching from pummelling to dance beats. Lush synths swell free. I forget my 12cm heels and 30 years, - I can’t stop jumping. A fangirl hops on the stage with an unrestrained energy, - yes, we all dance to those sensual rhythms. No doubt Ghent has something to offer to a fine-tuned ear – that’s Wwwater!
The New York rapper Junglepussy blows my mind entirely. Her love for herself is a living manifesto of empowered women. Injecting a good dose of humour, Junglepussy unapologetically tackles sexual and racial politics. Despite her melodies being chilled and voice honeyed, the whole performance is a wake-up call to stand up for women and the black community. Junglepussy is bold, she’s good and she knows it! Shayna McHayle acts out her lyrics with a theatrical rendition. Her song ‘Me’ immediately gets stuck in my head, - ‘I just want to be free, swinging my titties from tree to tree…’ For those tired of mainstream male-oriented hip hop where women are just sexual attributes in video clips, Junglepussy is the right antidote!
Wwwater, photo Michiel Devijver
After Jungglepussy, Open Mike Eagle seems to be just the opposite. He is gentle and poetic. Michael W. Eagle II talks about his childhood, growing up in a ghetto and walks us through his dreams. ‘I will never fit in your descriptions’ sings Michael, and he’s right. He’s not just a rapper, but a luminary storyteller. Alone on stage and playing tunes himself, Open Mike Eagle does not lack anything. Multiple layers of instrumental rumbles fit perfectly his soothing voice.
It’s my second time I’m seeing Gaika live and I’m not disappointed. Deep bass and wicked tunes, dancehall blending in with grime. Our feet are moving and chests are pounding. Although there is something ominous and menacing about Gaika, his dark beats are inviting rather than suppressing. Described as ‘ghetto-futurism’, Gaika’s soundscapes are dense.
There have been more artists for whom I couldn’t do justice due to timetable clashes and simply enjoying the event and its people. Such a diverse line-up has been a true blessing for my ears, eyes and heart. Music has always been political to me. It is inspiring to see artists who have not forgotten the roots of hip hop, a child of the civil rights movement. Huge thanks for promoters for making this happen!