Slightly haggard, having just returned from Outlook Festival the weekend before, and with barely a penny to my name, I meet the clan in Watford and, after watching a couple of hours disappear into various packing disasters as per usual, we jump in the whip to head up to Peterborough for the second year of UKHH festival Boom Bap. Having launched last year (review here) the team behind Boom Bap no doubt saw an opportunity in the form of the currently booming hip hop scene and put it to great use with a festival relatively small in size but booming in lineup, with basically everyone who’s anyone in the scene stepping to the stage at one point or another throughout the weekend. With the second year promising another exceptional lineup and much more in terms of production such as a late night tent featuring beat battles and some of the UK’s graff heavyweights being drafted in on decoration duties, we were keen to see what was in store.
Cruising into the campsite, thankfully managing to skip the queues, we praised the skies as the rain the weatherman had promised seemed to be holding off, at least for as long as it took us to set up the camp and start the afternoon with a couple beers. Luckily, the campsite was fairly receptive to my sales patter so it wasn’t too long before, minus a couple BC Tee Shirts, I was ready to head down to the arena, newly found bar money in tow. If I’m honest, Friday was slightly plagued by sound system issues and a spate of cancellations. From Skinnyman’s troubles with the law to Skittles seemingly enjoying life much more in sunny Sardina for Sun & Bass and Jam Baxter’s arm currently consisting of more metal than bone, some of our favourite acts unfortunately couldn’t show, but that’s something that’s largely out of Boom Baps control, so why dwell on it? Besides, that didn’t stop Triple Darkness, full crew in company, killing it on the main stage to a slightly bemused crowd that was perhaps a bit too young and friendly to really appreciate their menacing swagger, samurai sword waving and dark imagery of London’s estates. Despite Baxter’s absence, Dabbla enlisted Illaman and Dubbledge to replace Dead Players’ set with one from his equally rapid flowing Problem Child crew, a set that understandably went down very well. The Four Owls standardly smashed proceedings and Rodney P hyped the crowd up and delivered the kind of set only a true vet can for a a fitting end to Friday nights main stage lineup.
Sound restrictions imposed by the venue mean that the main stages have to cut the noise fairly early, so the extra Square One tent at the far end of the site for the late night heads was a welcome addition. Hosting beat battles and sets from some of the UKs top producers and DJs, cats like Disorda, Leaf Dog, The Purist and Pete Cannon provided plenty of entertainment in there over the course of the weekend. One thing I would say though is that the rap battles need to simply disappear. I’m no hater, I like them in some situations, but when your in a massive tent chilling at the back with your crew listening to nice beats, two kids you can barely even hear with less flow than Terry Wogan between them dissing each others mums to the sound of silence tends to kill the vibe slightly. Nevertheless, it was never too long before the sweet sound of bass came out of the stack behind us as the DJs, set up in two separate booths on either side of the dance floor in a sound clash style setup, proceeded to wheel out their most gully rhythms.
After working my way round the various campsite cyphers (basically everyone in that campsite is an MC, of wildly varying calibers), I woke up Saturday morning to the revelation that one of the extended family in our campsite was nowhere to be seen, his possessions still unpacked in his tent. We didn’t think too much of this until much later that day when we finally get through to him, back in Sheffield after having somehow woken up under a bridge in Peterborough with no knowledge of the night before and nothing but his return train ticket. To this day no one knows what happens, but that’s just what festivals will do to you if you let them I guess. After splashing a beer to mourn his loss, what more could we do but throw ourselves into the days lineup?
This more or less started off with the MC competition, something I was lucky enough to be involved in. Way too waved for my own good I stumbled up onto the main stage and should have perhaps concentrated on my bars more than the video camera in my hand, but that’s not to take away from young MC JHotRock who burnt the mic and breezed past me with ease, watch out for that kid and check his Insanity Business collab project here. Shouts to everyone that competed in that, the hosts, the judges and Sammy B for blessing the decks. Check out the video below.
From Croydon’s Boom Bap Professionals smashing a daytime set to Granville Sessions bringing a much appreciated Live band sound to the occasion and Skuff tearing his set to pieces, there was plenty else to entertain us during the day between trips to the bar and ramming some of the finest festival pizza I’ve ever witnessed down the gullet (fully worth the £12). M9 played his second set of the weekend, accompanied by just one of Triple Darkness, and never fails to bring straight up vibes to a stage while Sonnyjim, preceded by an Eatgood Records showcase that The Odyssey excelled in, drew the crowd into a frenzy with his gutteral vocal tones and unbeatable flows for a definite highlight of the weekend. Finishing the night off, the High Focus showcase was as on point as ever, with the addition of a couple new tunes I hadn’t heard before from Scissortongue and Verb T, and Klashnekoff showed why he’s still one of the UK’s greatest, completely owning a stage all on his own to a single ominous spotlight. Thankfully, the sound was much improved from the Friday and the music could be fully enjoyed, but at the same time we did notice a massive difference between DJs. Despite all the issues, whenever one of the top dogs stepped up to the stage with their DJ behind them, the sound miraculously improved, something Sammy B Side seemed to have particularly dialed. It appears some DJs simply need to learn to EQ and some producers need a few lessons in mastering their beats for large systems. Speaking of B Side, the ‘Workhorse of the Year’ title Leaf Dog took last year definitely needs to go his way, I wouldn’t even want to try and count the ammount of sets he held down.
Saturday night was when pouring rain and gale force winds really took hold of the skies, something that didn’t let up until we left on monday, so navigating the arena became a tricky feat of mud skating and puddle dodging, something that provides plenty of entertainment when your surrounded by so many drunkards. This meant that, despite certain heads sneaking away early to the comforts of home, both stages were absolutely pack out on Sunday as the campsite dwellers were forced into the shelter of the arena early. Northern Structure’s double time flows were a pleasant suprise as we wondered into the second stage, while Rag N Bone man as ever bought vibes in abundance there as he soulfully worked through his own classics, tunes alongside Leaf Dog and an exclusive from J Man’s album that sounded incredible. Back on the main stage, Manchester’s Mouse Outfit live band never fail to impress alongside Dr. Syntax and Sparkz, while Life and DJ Nappa proved they can definitely stamp their mark on a stage without Si Philly and Split Prophets brought their Bristolian rowdiness. After Dirty Dike smashed a solo set despite Baxter’s absence, the foundation was laid for Chester P to provide an awe inspiring end to the festival. Amid mic mastery and crowd riling speeches, he summed up how much unity their is in the hip hop scene right now and left organizer Ivan speechless when he was handed a mic at the very end of the night. Check the video of Chester below.
Boom Bap festival once again proved just how much the UK scene has grown in the last couple of years, and that’s largely down to the kind of respect between artists that was showcased throughout the weekend. Not even the worst weather we’ve seen in a long time could dampen spirits as the vibes once again reigned strong in a festival site that had definitely been improved from the last year. The security were also the greatest festival security I’ve ever seen, with a chilled out attitude to it all that meant there was mutual respect between security and crowd and not one issue throughout. One thing I will say though is that the sound across all three stages could have been better all weekend. As much as it’s great to spend money on increased decorations, systems and engineers should be top priority and I’d much rather go to a completely bare festival with crisp sound than the greatest looking site without. That being said, it wasn’t enough to blight what was once again an absolute triumph from the Boom Bap festival organizers with a lineup that’s beyond words, an atmosphere that simply can’t be beaten and an intimate family vibe. Despite how much I love big festivals like Outlook and Boomtown, it’s smaller size meant it was a great end to the season as you can just enjoy things without having to worry about losing people or missioning miles to another stage. Head over to their Website and Facebook to stay up to date with next year, we’re looking forward to seeing how it all grows! Check out all of the photos on the BC Facebook.