D-Block Europe at O2 Academy Leeds - Review
Fast cars. North Face. Air forces. If you grew up anywhere near London in the past 20 years, you’ll be familiar with these classic staples of urban youth culture. Unfortunately the aesthetic lacks range, with the Leeds student scene much more geared towards indie/alternative rock events such as Live at Leeds, or techno driven basement raves at warehouse venues. This can leave any southern scholar feeling a bit lost when searching for a way to blow off steam, so when we heard Lewisham-born hip-hop duo D-Block Europe were performing at Leeds O2 Academy on their sold out PTSD tour, we knew we had to be there. The result was something incredible. D-Block Europe created a space 200 miles from London to celebrate the capital at its most raw, diverse and energetic on a Sunday night in the middle of November, leaving absolutely no rest for the wicked.
Strangers to rest themselves, the duo, comprising of Young Adz and Dirtbike LB, are extremely hard workers - with the former debuting his first track when he was just thirteen. The pair have released two full-length mixtapes this year alone, with their latest release, PTSD, named after the trials and tribulations of lifestyles seized by fame. Their grinding ethic shines through in their performance, continuing for almost 90 minutes with rare breaks, keeping the energy up and the audience sweaty. They often remind the DJ to ‘keep it moving’, but the same isn't needed for their young fans who, in between throwing trigger fingers and Snapchat cameras, rap along about “shoppin’ up in Harrods”.
Fast becoming the most talked-about duo in the UK rap scene, their lyrics pay homage to the life they used to live on the streets of Lewisham, with references to the drugs, sex and violence - but there’s emotional depth there too. From the explicit title PTSD to the poignant catch-line “can a thug show his feelings?”, all of D-Block Europe’s songs evoke both the light and shade of the two quintessential characters. The set list is, of course, predominantly made up of songs from their latest album, but there is also a good dose of music from Any Minute Now - the album made in conjunction with East London rapper Yxng Bane, which fast-tracked the duo to success. Their swaggering stage presence and constant calls for “ENERGY” mean their concerts have a high-spirited and bustling vibe, setting them up to be natural headliners for energetic festivals and real fan-favourites of the genre.
With other big names in the UK rap scene such as Reading/Leeds festival headliner Dave and BRIT award nominee Loyle Carner all also performing at the Academy this year, D-Block Europe join as pioneers of an emerging hip-hop scene in Leeds this winter, and we here at LSTV are very excited to see it.
Words and photos by Salim Kalache and Isla Bidlake Hull.
D-Block Europe played O2 Academy Leeds on Sunday 17th November.