Writer Jasmine Khan / Photographer Hassan Ul-Haq
My hand is stamped with an adorable martini illustration and I’m struggling to find a seat at The Unique Experience. Hockley Social Club’s got a nice buzz going on a friday night. The radiant Call Me Unique, complete with custom outfit by Ella Judy, is already gracing the stage accompanied by her usual upbeat energy.
The night is set to be a spin on Unique’s typical showcase of local soul, r&b and hip-hop talent. With Missy versus Busta as the theme, I can’t wait to get stuck into the music. Unique’s soulful vocal’s lead on the first of many classic hip-hop bangers with NeONE The Wonderer’s mystical, crisp flow matching her talent each step of the way. His pauses and clever lyrics leave us hanging off every line.
The band grooves, with Arthur Stanley (guitar), Reed Bass (bass), Joiisol (keys) and Oliver Tabor (drums) rocking steadily in the background. Hockley Social Club is cool, lit in ice blue and lavender. The stage is low so we’re right in the action and I can’t help but nod my head.
There’s something about that Unique-NeONE combination that just catches you and carries you away into the night.
The first of many talented rappers to spit over the legendary Missy Elliot (sung by the almost equally legendary Unique) is Jordvn Emanuel. His flow is collected, clear and to the point while he confidently paces across the stage gesturing at the audience and then back at Unique, switching verses occasionally with NeONE.
There’s such a creative ease to the musical interaction with all of the artists smiling as the group’s confidence and numbers grow.
Jugganaut’s presence immediately commands the growing audience’s attention. His powerful MCing and dancehall vibes hype up the energy at Hockley Social once again and B-boys start break-dancing in the space between the audience and the stage. A space I predict will get smaller and smaller from here on out.
Jugganaut is joined by Har-Q, who catches my eye immediately. He’s donning a phantom-of-the-opera-esc mask and spits wise lyrics barely pausing for breath, flowing over the slick beat maintained by the band. There’s hints of childish gambino but Har-Q clearly has an individual style.
We also hear from Sam Dutch (Sayob) whose r&b falsetto vocals are to die for. Ruth Kokumo makes a brief cameo blowing us away with her deep bluesy growls which she layers masterfully alongside the now seven rappers on stage.
In the break, DJ Alastair Squirre L Marriot keeps the rhythm going, and the second half kicks off strong with some Busta Rhymes covers.
Napps, Dolo and $ilky are all brave enough to answer Unqiue’s call for any musicians in the house to join the jam. They bring a mad amount of Friday night energy with them, though one artist who steps up truly steals the show: Keilah Rebekah.
Keilah’s vocals begin like the soft brush of a feather, delicate and beautiful. As she gains confidence and momentum they soar, Keilah’s soulful, dynamic voice completing intricate runs with ease. The final moments of Keilah and Unique’s duet sees them perfectly in harmony with the band.
Ruth pokes me whilst I’m writing and pleads for two songs worth of dancing, so I close up my notebook and oblige getting up to shake my arse. Everyone is moving now. Jugganaut’s back centre stage bouncing his hand up and down on the beat as we dance beneath him, and the rest of the rappers trade verses.
Unique’s still singing, still cheering us on. She truly is the hostess with the mostest. NeONE’s still spinning clever rhymes about life here in the Midlands, and we’re all grooving to the music… I don’t remember what time I got home.
The Unique Experience is on every Friday at Hockley Social Club. For their next line-up go to: www.hockleysocialclub.com and follow @cmuevents on Instagram.
For more from Call Me Unique check out: www.callmeunique.com
For more from NeONE The Wonderer go to: www.neonethewonderer.bandcamp.com
If you want to find out more about the other rappers/arists and what gig’s they’ve got coming up, check out their socials: @jordvnemanuel, @jugganaut_music_u.l.u, @official_harq @Sayobofficial and @keilahrebekah