Holly Greenwood reviews...
Approaching Belgrave on a Friday night, a mounting queue was forming to gain access to the ever popular Leeds venue. This turn out promised a great atmosphere for the night ahead and Williams certainly filled the floor with his eclectic arrangements. The warm up artist, going by the name of Don Rattray, could give Grinder from Kurupt FM a run for his money with his amusing (slightly, no actually, VERY sexist) lyrics and hard-man MCing. His slow delivery against trap style instrumentals wasn’t necessarily for me and differed from Kamaal’s own softer yet funky tracks, but Rattray had great engagement with the crowd and entertained them nevertheless. Kamaal then appeared behind a stack of keyboards and synth machines alongside a friend on the drums. Both sported zipped up anoraks and cargos in true gorpcore style, which was cemented by Kamaal’s thick London accent. Williams remained encased in his tarpaulin-esque fit and looked out onto the crowd with a pair of black wayfarers, giving him an air of mystery.
The set was backdropped by projections of visuals alluding to the Wu name of his birth, Henry Wu, that he carries with him into his music. These moving graphics carried the audience through Kamaal’s progressing tracks,which started out chill and simple but climbed up to heavy kicks of the bass drum, accompanied by Kamaal’s playful,and dance inducing melodies. There was so much positive energy in the room amongst such a varied cohort of listeners, but the vast range in ages did not stop the crowd from getting down and expressing their love for William’s unique arrangements. Beloved tracks from William’s early days such as High Roller were omitted, replaced by what felt like a curated jam session, with every song flowing seamlessly into another.
Williams’ music defies categorisation from the established genres yet he has fashioned his own genre, namely ‘Wu Funk’.‘Wu Funk’ is defined as a blend of hip-hop, jazz and RnB and I would add acid jazz, lounge and house to that list after seeing him live. Some of his performed tracks felt like a throwback to the Hacienda days, but without the rave aspect I suppose. After his collaboration with drummer, Yussef Dayes, hybridised to form the group ‘Yussef Kamaal in 2016, I’m excited to see which direction Williams pursues next. His latest album, ‘Wu Hen’, released in 2020 over the course of the Pandemic is a brilliant listen, with features from artists like Lauren Faith for Hold On - a fan favourite.
Words: Holly Greenwood
Image credit: Holly Greenwood and Bandcamp