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Live Review: Kwame reached new heights at his sold out Oxford Art Factory show

19 February 2019 | 9:46 am | Michael Stratford Hutch

Witnessing Sydney-based rapper and producer KWAME at the Oxford Art Factory last Saturday was like watching a young artist blow up in real time. Right in front of your eyes, song after song, Kwame had the entirety of a sold-out OAF heaving. The energy built steadily through the night towards, with support from triple j unearthed darling Arno Faraji and up-and-coming DJ Latifa Tee -both delivered fun, interactive sets laced with plenty of sub.

Faraji on supporting duty had the venue filling up a full two hours before Kwame’s set, and with his approachable, jokester vibe and bouncy production, he had the audience heated up for things to come. At one point the crowd was so receptive that Faraji called out to Kwame backstage and teased, “Kwame I hope you can hear that… We’re stealing your fans here!”

Faraji’s repartee with his DJ was a consistent highlight throughout his slot. Between the two of them bantering and back-spinning, the support act was starting to look a lot like a headliner, especially when it came time for closer track, ‘Bless (What It’s Like).’

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Latifa Tee dove straight in to the bangers to keep people going between sets. Tee was charming when getting on the mic a few times to fulfil hype duties, and her wide-ranging selections from recent chart-toppers to 00's hip-hop showed her potential as a promising hip-hop DJ. Wrapping things up with a mind-boggling rework of Soulja Boy’s ‘Crank Dat,’ Tee had the audience tightly coiled and awaiting the promised headliner.

From the opening bars of ‘NO TIME,’ it was clear that Kwame has spent the last few years building the most devoted and passionate of fan-bases. Even what may be described as a more low-key number in his collection had the entire place moshing from the first hit of sub, and this level of engagement steadily rose as the set went on.

Kwame’s idiosyncratic flows like on breakout track ‘WOW’ were completely on point, and complex rhythms at risk of tripping over themselves were delivered with a confidence that went beyond the original recordings. Different vocal textures were played with, tastefully augmenting segments of vocals with autotune. Kwame’s relationship with his DJ was another instance of great back-and-forth, and two songs delivered with Sydney’s own Phil Fresh proved the calibre of Kwame’s collaborations. The chemistry between them on stage and with the crowd was infectious, keeping spirits high even heading into slower numbers near the midway point.

Throughout his set, Kwame devoted significant time shouting out friends, producers, and other collaborators who were there, constantly reminding fans of other people’s work around his music. At one point he explained, “This is about building a legacy. Find your family, people who feed on the same energy as you. Without my family, I wouldn’t be here.” It was galvanising to hear a young artist staying grounded in community and connection, especially in this period of overbearing regulation and lack of respect for arts communities.

Closing the set with recent single ‘CLOUDS.’ Kwame went stratospheric, whipping the entire venue into a frenzy for one final thrash. With gigs like this, one thinks of the resilience of young people and their culture in Sydney, and how even in the face of growing prohibitive measures, artists like Kwame continue to aspire and reach great heights. After seeing such raw power from him, and with such a devoted community around to lift him up, I would not be at all surprised seeing Kwame on international bills very soon - catch him while you can.

Photo by Zain Ayub