Thousands flocked to Finsbury Park to see the very best of hip-hop, rap, grime and R&B
Scorching temperatures, surprise guests and Opium’s UK debut
Footprints linking the Main and Amazon Music +44 stages marked Friday’s pilgrimage between Destroy Lonely, Ken Carson and Homixide Gang’s sets. All members of Playboi Carti’s Opium label were here and it was their first time – along with Carti himself – performing together in the UK; animating lively crowds under the scorching 29ºC sun.
Flags with Ice Spice’s coral curls were peppered around the park, building excitement for the New York star’s first UK show. Her set was short and sweet, but there was enough time to chant every lyric to ‘The Boy’s a Liar’ – joined by PinkPantheress in the flesh.
From The Bronx to Brooklyn; a crimson-clad Lola Brooke announced “I want to FEEL the energy” and climbed down from the stage to surf the shoulders of her security.
This was Lancey Foux’s third time at Wireless, but his first to grace the Main Stage. He’s been working on new music, he confirms, bringing out St Louis rapper Sexyy Red for a live introduction of their track ‘MMM HMM’.
Metro Boomin wished everyone a ‘Beautiful Morning’ with the start of his perfectly produced set of hits, and the festival erupted when he brought out Future.
Like Ice Spice, it was also Yeat’s first time performing to a British crowd. Face concealed, as per, in a Rick Owens balaclava, he treated us to new material between classics ‘Sorry Bout That’ and ‘Money Twërk’. As the park started to cool in the early evening, fire burst from the stage and the mosh grew to shouts of “Jump! Jump!”, until he left with a message: “I appreciate you all”. It was mutual. A chanted “Yeat! Yeat” brought him back out for ‘Monëy So Big’.
Playboi Carti completed the Opium takeover with the first headline set of the weekend. Experimental choreographer Blackhaine set his chaotic entourage loose to the sound of distorted guitar riffs and Carti’s impassioned screams.
Torrential rain was no match for London’s energy
When FLO stepped out in matching blood-red ensembles on Saturday afternoon, we were already soaked from a sudden summer shower. Stella Quaresma expressed her gratitude: “thanks for giving us energy even though it’s raining real bad. We’ll be joining you soon”. Shielded from the rain (for now) they performed hits from their debut EP The Lead – released one year ago to the day – treated us to new single ‘Control Freak’ and brought out Bellah to a rendition of ‘Suite Life (Familiar)’. Making good on Stella’s promise, the trio processed out into the downpour. Synchronising to choreographed steps and inducing goosebumps with melodic harmonies, they unlocked a new level of their 90’s adventure with a cover of Destiny’s Child’s ‘Independent Woman’. “And now, the song that brought us all here”, ‘Cardboard Box’.
Out came the sun and dried up all the rain. “Put your hands in the sky tonight!”. The crowd’s obliging hands shot up for Joey Bada$$. “I gotta say I’m so happy to be on this stage today. You know London is one of my favourite cities, right?” Influenced by the likes of Nas, 2Pac and Biggie, Joey put on Saturday’s second performance with an impeccable 90s energy.
Opposite Joey Bada$$ was NLE Chopper, drawing in the Amazon Stage’s biggest crowd of the weekend. With a full chest of tats on show, the Memphis rapper whipped up a vortex in the pit.
Another female artist to rock the red was Mariah the Scientist, who was all humility as she realised just how many Britons could recite her lyrics. One brief lamentation that she couldn’t shake it like usual in her scarlet corset, then a lightbulb idea: she’d climb down into the pit like yesterday’s Lola Brooke. Back up on stage, she notices someone waving sign – a request. “You want me to add a song? Can I do that? I’ll do it!” She squeezed it in before performing her finale, which she promptly encored while capturing the moment on her phone.
It was hot but muggy for Lil Yachty’s time. He was fascinated; “We don’t have clouds in America”. First up on the set list, performed by an all-female band, were tracks from his newest album, Let’s Start Here, a genre flip from 2016’s ‘Minnesota’, ‘iSpy’ and ‘Broccoli’, and different still from the following string of back-to-back ragers that climaxed with a XXXTentacion tribute on ‘Take AA Step Back’.
The sky turned to a grey tempest as Travis Scott emerged; it was an uncannily perfect backdrop to the stage’s setup of smoke and stalagmites. Flames and fireworks peppered his epic hits ‘Butterfly Effect’ and ‘Beibs In The Trap’ before Sexyy Red materialised for the second time that weekend.
Landing just right for Sunday
A gilded throne awaited Popcaan at the top of a red-carpeted staircase on Sunday; his royal guards parted their arch of Jamaican flags so he could ascend. ‘Freshness’, his first song on the setlist, had barely started when one bloke skipped gleefully past the crowd twirling his hat. “Say woii yoii! I want everyone representing where they’re from today”, said the energetic Popcaan, performing his Vybz Kartel feature ‘Clarks’ before introducing Protoje to the stage for ‘Like Royalty’. The sun came out; all was well.
A little nod to her Memphis roots, GloRilla joined her dancers with a few step-kick moves, turning new single ‘Lick Or Sum’ into the next line-dancing anthem. ‘Tomorrow’ was a big hit – she passed the encore over to her fans, asking them to sing the chorus back to her. Then, it was competition time – four fans battled it out during an on-stage twerk off.
50 Cent’s time was as wholesome as it was nostalgic; his face beamed with a smile as he rattled off hit after hit, backed by his original music videos on the stage screen. It must feel good to see your crowd reciting every lyric from your decades of discography. A frantic rush towards his set began at the sound of ‘P.I.M.P.’s’ steelpans. ‘Magic Stick’, ‘Candy Shop’, ‘Just A Lil Bit’ and ‘21 Questions’ were next, but apparently he was still just getting started – chants of “50, 50, 50” were met with “How did you know this was the good part?”. On cue, it was time to sing along to “In Da Club” (it was actually his birthday on Thursday) and ‘Many Men’.
D-Block Europe brought the London summer home as they closed the festival. The Lewisham duo brought out four surprise guests – the weekend’s record – to perform their feature tracks. A succession of British artists, Nafe Smallz, Krept & Konan and Clavish were followed by rap royalty Chip, and there was even a brief appearance from M Huncho.
There was satisfied applause as the signature fireworks drew the festival to a close. Until next summer, Wireless…
Header image: Matt Eachus