Fans were out in droves this last night to see a solid lineup of rap heavyweights. The Espy’s front room packed to capacity with everyone anxious to get a good look at one of the pivotal members of one of hip hop’s legendary groups, GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan.

Starting the night was Jean Grae, a respected female hip hop artist from New York City. Although not well known to an Australian audience, Grae more than impressed the crowd with her soulful voice that oozed sex appeal. Although a bit slow for what was to come, Grae had great chemistry with the audience and made sure to belt out a few faster numbers for their benefit.

By the time Pharaohe Monch took the stage the audience had calmed down significantly (and been thinned out aggressively by security, a good quarter being shown the door due to fights unfortunately). Pharaohe took no notice however and quickly re-elevated the mood, and in no time had all the audience with their hands up. A few tried to keep up with him but there was no use bothering, Pharaohe is known to have one of the most complex rapping techniques and certainly the rhymes came thick and fast.

The crowd didn’t have to wait long after Pharaohe for GZA to take the stage, the room was so hyper by this point many sparked blunts to chill out a bit. After coming out last August with Wu-Tang Clan it was great to see how much charisma GZA can bring to a solo show and certainly he appeared much more animated at this performance, most likely as the venue enabled him to connect better with the crowd, and the audience was more than satisfied with just his presence on stage. Not surprising considering Liquid Swords was probably a key album for many of the crowd in their teenage years.

GZA had the audience in his control, and many times when he said jump no one even questioned how high (and the floorboards no doubt will pay for this later). GZA played all the crowd favourites; “Liquid Swords” in particular opened and closed the show. He also went through a back catalogue of old Wu-Tang favourites (performing just his parts) and even treated the crowd to an epic a cappella free style rap that always started up again better than before just when you thought he couldn’t continue any longer. He also performed an even slower version of “C.R.E.A.M” to allow the audience to join in and there was time for an Ol’ Dirty Bastard shout out before Pharaohe Monch took the stage to help with a few songs.

To top off a much anticipated and perfectly executed performance GZA stayed long after the show finished to sign fan’s wares, and many walked away with signed t-shirts; those without official merchandise weren’t disappointed though, GZA signed shoes, human flesh and basically anything you handed to him. Massive respect.

– Hannah Joyner