Kojey Radical looks around sheepishly before lowering his voice. “I also got nominated for a BRIT Award,” he whispers as he recaps what’s happened in the Hoxton-based rapper's life in the past year. “I say it quietly as it still doesn’t feel real...I don’t want them to take it away from me.”
Kojey's 2022 debut full-length Reason To Smile was up there with the most unique, versatile and enjoyable records in UK hip-hop for some time, and to celebrate its success, the 30-year-old has come to the tiny confines of East London’s XOYO to play this intimate gig for BRITs Week to benefit the War Child charity. As an artist who can usually play to crowds roughly 20 times the size of the fortunate couple of hundred present tonight, this feels like a special event, and one that everyone inside will almost certainly be boasting about attending a few years from now.
For a start, the Londoner simply oozes cool, blessed with the kind of charisma that is impossible to teach. He glides onto XOYO’s minute stage wearing a pair of Timmy Mallet-style sunglasses and a rain mac, and still looks like the slickest fucker on the planet. Bursting into Reasons To Smile’s title track, his mix of rootsy dancehall, classic soul, groove-filled funk and golden-era hip-hop is magnificent, his band as tight as Ebeneezer Scrooge during a cost-of-living crisis. Kojey is clearly having a ball, too, strutting, bobbing and gesticulating throughout the set like he’s the result of James Brown and Andre 3000 adopting a child and raising it in South London. It’s almost impossible to avert your gaze from the man.
By the time we reach the climax of his set, with a superb run through the curled-lip, Stax funk of Payback, a song so good that the audience feverishly demands that he comes back on and plays it for a second time, Kojey has stripped to the waist, climbing onto the mixing desk to perform a couple more songs. As everyone files out at the end of the evening, there’s the definite sense that we’ve just been privy to something quite special.
As he says himself in the chorus to Silk, Kojey's performance is smooth, sexy and classy. There’s really no need to whisper it: Kojey Radical is surely the next great breakout superstar in UK hip-hop.