Writer Jasmine Khan / Photographer Maddie Cottom-Allan
C.F.C Studio, on the corner of Thomas and Pool Street, isn’t a space I’ve visited before. As Maddie and I pull up, the woman at the door has to turn away some walk-ins because the event’s sold out, something tells me this is going to be far from your typical gig experience.
Demarae, the director and designer of Multiverse, is a talent to be reckoned with. I find out after a quick chat with Indigo Marshall that all of the seven musicians have had a unique world designed for them by Demarae, which will play on the back wall behind them during their set.
Right now, there’s a world already playing inspired by Birmingham itself and attendees are sitting in front of it on benches and a plush mini sofa. It looks like a driving game, but I can’t see any wires so I assume it must just be a cool projection. There’s FREE soft drinks and water, and it’s BYOB, which means even though it’s a bit out of the way, it’s still a night you can do on a budget.
There’s an artist digitally painting the musicians who are yet to perform off to the left of the projection. It’s breath-taking and I discover this is Dayle Demaret-Smith, Damarae’s brother. I want Maddie to take a picture, but I’ve lost her in the Multiverse already.
The assumed projection is looking more and more suspicious, Maddie’s sat down right in front of it and I go over to investigate. It is a game, you’ve just got to find the wireless controller (modern technology eh?) and as it turns out you can actually play in the Multiverse.
“Maddie really was the best by far, really good. You go girl!” says ANTI, 31, from Great Barr (under some mild pressure from BR’s resident comic whore).
Our hostess, Yola, takes to the floor, fluorescent orange eyeshadow reflecting the bright lights and she calls for positive energy, explaining the effort that’s gone into the event.
Yola introduces Odd Priest and suddenly the game on the projector behind her shifts and we enter Odd Priest’s universe. Flames shooting up from the ground surrounded by a football stadium become his backdrop. Odd Priest is a character in his own alternate reality, robotically pausing and staring into the crowd at just the right moment.
The graphics bleed from the back wall onto the ceiling and side walls so it feels hyper realistic. I shook and I’m pretty sure my mouth’s open like a guppy fish.
Odd priest is a great performer, his rap flow is curt, it’s clarity syncing his movements to the strong, alternative, grimey production and pyrotechnics behind him. Switching it up in the next track, Odd Priest’s vocals remind me of Mario when he sings. He’s got that sexy-smooth RnB feel, delivering runs for days..
An additional artist joins Odd Priest on stage and it’s none other than ANTI who immediately lives up to her namesake – providing it is indeed inspired by Rhianna’s best album.
Odd Priest finishes up the first set of the night highlighting both his rapping and singing skills. In combination with the excellent visuals and I’m pretty sure live mixing at points by DJ Rhexis, it feels like I’ve entered a different world.
How did Demarae even imagine this concept?
There are no breaks in the Multiverse and Brum’s very own indigo child, Indigo Marshall, takes the stage quickly after Odd Priest. Her universe is in stark contrast to Odd Priest, but the transition is subtle, and I quickly become immersed in Indigo’s paradise moon of a world.
As always, Indigo Marshall’s vocals are like warm honey, they’re classic RnB, and as they soar effortlessly above the crowd I hear someone behind sigh “she’s incredible..” and she really is.
We get to listen to a few tracks off her most recent EP The Fall and then Indigo takes us back to ‘Summer Nights’, her debut single. “Sometimes being alone is better for my soul,” Indigo sings as her hands glide and sway around her. It’s an important message to remember.
Rhexis is given the space to show off his mixing skills and the high frequency vibrations his tracks emanate. Maddie and I pop out for a smoke because as much as it’s nice to not have to wait 20 minutes for the next set, it’s always nice to be able to take five to chat about how the night has been so far.
When we get back inside, it’s time for Shenai, who our hostess-with-the-mostess introduces as “Low-fi, trippy RnB”. Shenai’s world is a soft lavender and baby pink forest, and kind of psychedelic. Her sound is atmospheric and electronic although you can feel the RnB layers underneath.
Shenai’s soft elegant voice weaves jovially around the plentiful crowd, but her lyrics are cutting as she dresses down exes that keep calling her through complex key changes and angelic, dynamic runs. She shouts out Rhexis for his production, and it’s so obvious I’m amongst a far reaching community of supportive, creative souls.
Next up, it’s local rap legend Tarju Le’Sano, and he does not disappoint. Tarju’s energy is immediately explosive, it’s pure confidence and it captivates the audience. “Kill them with kindness, I’m generation-defining,” he raps into the mic over a jumped-up, alt grime beat, “I’m an 0121 lad”.
Some tracks have more of an experimental hip-hop feel and I’m getting some of the jazz influence that Tarju mentioned in his short intro. Tarju’s world is a city bathed in red light and it’s abundantly apparent that he’s proud of his roots and proud of being a Brum boy.
“I’ll say some poignant shit later,” shouts Tarju, but for now he breaks it down, throwing a few moves while calling out both MCs and MPs who seek to perpetrate corruption and lies.
Tarju calls for love with a song that’s got a A Tribe Called Quest twang, he lets his pipes ring out for the first time in the evening and the power behind them is tremendous.
“My city, can you celebrate me, before I get seen.”
“My city, can you celebrate me, while I’m living my dream.”
Following Tarju’s is ReRe Damarae who is indeed the sister of Multiverse creator Damarae and portrait artist Dayle, but more importantly she’s a vocalist, producer, and artist herself. Her sounds got pop-esc RnB vibes and her universe reflects her complex femininity with ease.
Some tracks are mellow, ones to cry at home too. Others are vibrant and demand that you move your hips. ReRe’s universe blazes behind her as her voice dances through the audience.
There’s been a range of sounds delivered to a high standard so far, but I cannot anticipate that Yonko Leck’s performance will end with the entirety of the >THEM collective taking the floor and shouting lacerating lyrics into a hyped-up audience.
Yonko Leck’s first track is heavy grime and his lyrics traverse the political and personal.
“We’ll try not to be too intimidating” he says, as he and Lord Andrew deliver pertinement flows at a massive volume facing each other, then stomp about the stage jumping in sync like Kriss Kross but way badder.
Yonko switches it up, inviting Mellow to accompany him whose stunning voice softens the brilliantly harsh energy. Yonko delivers an almost RnB rap verse, and harmonises while Mellow sweetly sings the melodic chorus. It’s great to see dynamism in Yonko’s musical abilities.
Louis D. Prince jumps up and ramps the vibe back up, so does Lord Andrew and the next track’s lyrics catch me off guard. Despite Yonko Leck’s very apparent masculinity his lyrics challenge stereotypes perpetrated by toxic masculinity, like the one that calls out homophobia in the scene.
CreezOn is the final act of the evening, and he’s not afraid to stand at the front of his Multiverse as close to the audience as possible.
“This is the new wave of creatives in Birmingham,” CreezOn says smiling.
The audience cheers and stomps. CreezOn’s tight flow begins speaking on self-development and personal growth: “Life’s too short to be shy” he raps. The alt grime vibes are back again and there’s more than one interesting sound whizzing through that I don’t have the words to describe. CreezOn’s got a bit of a mystical edge, especially with ’Different’.
Conscious of the time and the possibility of Uber warfare, I regretfully have to dip out a few tracks before the end of CreezOn’s set. But I’ll be making the effort to see all the musicians on Punch Record’s line-up again.
And as for the director and designer of Multiverse, Demarae? I’m certain you can expect great things from him in the not so distant future.
Multiverse – Maddie Cottom-Allan
For more from the director and designer of Multiverse, Damarae go to: www.instagram.com/demarae.exe/
For more from Odd Priest go to: www.open.spotify.com/artist
For more from Indigo Marshall go to: www.indigomarshall.com
For more from Rhexis go to to: www.soundcloud.com/rhexisuk
For more from Shenai go to: www.open.spotify.com/artist
For more from Tarju Le’Sano go to: www.open.spotify.com/artist
For more from ReRe Demarae go to: www.open.spotify.com/artist
For more from Yonko Leck go to: www.open.spotify.com/artist
For more from CreezOn go to: www.open.spotify.com/artist