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Review: Ibiza Rocks ft Nas + Bishop Nehru, 9th July

Ibiza’s appetite for hip hop has been exposed and must be fed henceforth.

Thanks to Nas, Ibiza's appetite for hip hop has been exposed and must be fed henceforth; last night was too much fun to be a one-off.

Knowing support act Bishop Nehru would be worth catching, we arrived at Ibiza Rocks for the early shift – the bit where we all line the edges of the premises with a drink in hand and stare expectantly, even longingly, at the empty space in the middle. As a sign of the crowd's enthusiasm to come, three guys were pioneering the dance floor cause and pulling some excellent moves on the edge of the floor in a casual dance-off amongst themselves. Track selection from Rocks residents Patrick Nazemi and Danny Beck was already class; it was as if we'd been propelled back to our high school house party heyday with Lauryn Hill, Jagged Edge, Beastie Boys, Cypress Hill and Ja Rule all making appearances, causing more than the odd head to pop out of its Ibiza Rocks hotel room window and emerge out onto the balcony for a bump'n'grind like the rare ole' times.

Touring with Nas and Nehru, DJ Juanyto took over, continuing the hip hop classics roll call with tracks from Notorious B.I.G., Luniz and Jay Z. Juanyto was fun, but engaged in too much crowd hyping for my tastes: “hey people make some noise”… when I say crabsticks, you say what” and the like. The crowd was vocal and supportive, but we're a sloppy rabble in the end and Juanyto expected a bit more organised interaction than we were ready to give. Most of us were a couple of gold teeth and some rhythm shy of crunk, so when asked to “put our fucking hands up”, we couldn't promise to do it in time.

After some more of the aforementioned hyping, Bishop Nehru tumbled on to stage and began to rap with a confidence that belied his pipsqueak age bracket. At only seventeen years old Nehru already has a thriving and growing career in music and directing. His music was hip hop at its best – well produced instrumentals, easy groove, plenty of punch and energy but without aggression. Highlights included Fickle Minds and Darkness, both of which have film clips directed by our new favourite teenager himself. Nehru was incredibly charismatic on stage: cool, conversational and endearingly polite (“oh no you're too kind!” he responded to our cheers). As if to win over anyone left in the house not yet on side, when the beat dropped out at the end of his last number, Nehru rolled on to a brilliant a capella close, 8 Mile style. Kid's got serious flow.

Then it was the customary forty-five minute break between support and headliners – an unnecessary lag which leaves just enough time for everyone to go to the bathroom and buy a beer eight times over, and meanwhile the excitement built up by the support to steadily fizzle away. Residents Beck and Nazemi tried to keep the energy high by smashing us with aggressive drum'n'bass but it just wasn't the right tunage for the moment. Fortunately that didn't count for figs, as I can confidently say this was one of the most good natured, positive crowds I've been a part of at Ibiza Rocks. I think everyone was just so stoked to see a hip hop hero on an island that doesn't usually have time for such sounds.

At 11pm Nas finally bounded onto stage and kicked off the Balearic leg of his Twenty Years of Illmatic tour with New York State of Mind, dutifully changing it to “Ibiza State of Mind” for the occasion (omg that's us - squeeeee!). From there it was an excursion through the Illmatic classics and beyond: we bounced to Represent, Life's a Bitch and The World is Yours, during which Nas made a point of eye-balling as many crowd members as he could lock onto, bridging the already small gap between stage and crowd and keeping us as focused on the tracks as he was. “Hip hop is in Ibiza!” Nas cried, and it really did feel like a special occasion. We used to dream about coming here, so this one is for the boys locked up back home ” - and we all raised our drinks for the start of One Mic.

The stars really aligned for this one. Nas played everything I hoped he would and performed it excellently (might have had some practice), it was more intimate than most of the gigs he's playing on this global Illmatic tour and the crowd was awesome. What's more, the support had been the perfect compliment to the headliner to come, as both Nehru and Nas are about rhythm, flow and home truths, eschewing monster bass lines for melodic hooks and laid-back beats.

Finishing, like Nehru before him, with a warm and polite “you're very kind, thank you” Nas left the stage and all too soon it was over. Twenty years on, Illmatic has lost none of its shine.

WORDS | Jordan Smith PHOTOGRAPHY | James Chapman


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