On the corner of St. Vincent Street and Blythswood Street, a girl is briefing a boy about what they are about to experience – “This will be one of the most important gigs you’ll ever see. This is going to be massive for Glasgow”. This will not be the only time this sentiment will be expressed.
First up is ID, described by headliner Bemz as his right hand man. Followed by PSWEATPANTS, with bass so deep it feels like King Tuts is being demolished around us. And finally, Washington, the last of the support acts. Whilst his predecessors are bombastic as they prowl about the stage, he seems more meek, or maybe it’s aloofness. It’s difficult to tell behind the sunglasses. But, Washington performs with just as much confidence as anyone over his chilled beats.
And then, it’s time for the main man. Bemz, fresh off dates with The Snuts, bounds about the stage with pure energy and enthusiasm, always giving you the impression that he can scarcely believe that he’s here. It shouldn’t be a surprise though, the previous two years have seen unprecedented success for not just the Ayrshire rapper, but also for Scottish rap. There was a Scottish Album of the Year award nomination in 2021, for Saint of Lost Causes, and his naming as BBC Introducing’s Scottish Act of the Year 2022. All of this combines together with the sold out King Tut’s show to prove that Bemz is an artist on the ascendency, and with no ceiling in sight.
The show itself is as much about Bemz, as it is a celebration of rap in Scotland though, an at times much maligned medium north of the border. Long gone are the days of young teams and fleetos uploading nasally, monotone bars over deafening Hardcore to Bebo. This is the real deal.
Opening with Bando2Studio before blitzing through a set that takes in tracks from across his thus far prolific career, there’s even a glimpse into the future with a first play of, the on the night dubbed, Fever. The Housey number 26 is a particular highlight, a product of a Tennement TV pair up. 26 is as good an example of any as to demonstrate why Bemz is so critically acclaimed, lyrically it is masterfully vulnerable and introspective.
Alongside Bemz’ is a rotating cast of collaborators, there’s even two tracks from Kiko, who blows the roof off the place with his solo spot. ID, PSWEATPANTS and Washington all return to partner Bemz on individual tracks before there is an en masse gathering to finish the show off with M4 Freestyle. This isn’t someone who is pulling up the ladder behind him, this was an opportunity to showcase the talent that exists in Scotland right now, and this was an opportunity that everyone involved grabbed with both hands.
This felt like another step towards something. Bemz is already raking in the acknowledgements of the industry, but it won’t be long before he is selling out much bigger rooms than King Tuts. You wonder what other doors this has opened for rap in Scotland, how long before new names are being added to the famous steps at King Tuts.
Review by Callum McCormack