Just over a week prior to this Jehst had been headlining the Jazz Cafe with a live band, yet here is again playing second fiddle to an under-appreciative crowd. Having released one of the very best records of the year back in June, you’d think playing to such an unresponsive crowd would dampen his performance, but Jehst amicably does he best to energise the gaggle of Random Axe fans who arrived early. To an extent, he has some success, and as he cuts the beat to leave the damning political musings of ‘England’ standalone, the crowd are undoubtedly hanging on to every word. While this won’t be the best gig Jehst will have played this year, it does the job and he remains first choice for rap show warm-up by some distance.
By the time Random Axe appear on stage, though, it’s very clear who this audience are here to see. Black Milk begins on the decks (where he spends most of the evening) playing through a few records, before introducing emecee’s Guilty Simpson and Sean Price, whose presence tonight lends a veteran-like professionalism to the evening. The group run through the majority of their self-titled debut album, before taking the opportunity to show off some solo material from their respective careers. While it’s Black Milk’s kick-snare assault that predictably dominates the night, there are also moments dedicated to the late J Dilla, and also Madlib as they run through cuts from Simpson’s OJ Simpson album.
It’s perhaps Sean Price, though, who is most impressive, and more of a rarity when it comes to appearances in the UK. Previews of tracks from his forthcoming album Mic Tyson show promise, and his stage presence throughout makes the room seem much smaller than it is. While Black Milk emerges from behind the turntable intermittently, the strength of Random Axe is his that all three guys play to their strengths. With Black Milk on the beats, and Simpson and Price up front, this is one supergroup that proves to be a winning combination.