It’s been all eyes on Col3trane, and this week the fast-rising singer finished up his four-part UK tour, hitting the metropolises of Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester and finally London. Taking place at Dalston’s Birthdays in Col3trane’s hometown, which suitably sold out with immediacy, I’m lucky enough to just about squeeze myself into a very packed and excited venue.
Towards the end of 2017, the 19 year old Cole Basta (aka Col3trane) dropped his debut mixtape ‘Tsarina’. Instantly catching fire, the north Londoner’s overcast and poignant take on a neo-soul sound garnered over three million streams on Spotify in its first month of release. Growing up in London to American and Egyptian parents, Cole’s music is a collage of styles, with his futuristic RnB lyrics often being likened to Frank Ocean (no easy feat in itself). While Basta is represented by the management powerhouse Tap Management, the team behind Dua Lipa, DJ Shadow, Rat Boy and the mighty Lana Del Rey, he also remains unsigned – a testament to the power that the online world has now afforded individual artists. Miraculously, Col3trane has only been making music the last three years, but has already cemented himself as one of the most sought after acts in the UK.
His recent video for ‘Language’ feat Ebenezer was one of the most memorable UK videos of recent times, comprised of a series of telling long distance shots. Directed by Felix Brady, the concept is interestingly similar to the visual techniques used in the newest TDE video for ‘King’s Dead’, highlighting the possibility that Col3trane’s influence is already international.
It’s a Tuesday evening, and it’s show night. Opening up the evening is DJ Ralph Hardy (or as Cole refers to him on Twitter “the coolest man on earth and sauciest DJ”). Playing a mix of genres to keep the crowd hyped, soon it approaches Col3trane’s stage time of 9pm. The venue space fills up to stretching point with a young and very zealous crowd and when 9 rolls on, a hooded figure is escorted through the tightly packed audience. As he approaches the stage, the hood is removed to reveal a wide-eyed Col3trane, ready to take on the packed basement of Birthdays. He is joined by a two piece band, playing a mix of instruments throughout the evening, pumping a plethora of RnB rooted sounds through the Birthdays soundsystem.
Though it’s only a forty-five minute set, Cole manages to reel off much of the ‘Tsarina’ EP. Tracks such as ‘Smart Aleck Kill’ and ‘Mario Kart’ appear early in the set and even though he’s only just warming up at this point, the crowd are fully engaged and outgoing in nature, dancing and singing along. As tracks such as ‘New Chain’ and ‘Language’ are delivered later in the set, the crowd are at critical level, with the entire venue bouncing and screaming the lyrics back at him. He is clearly overwhelmed with the support, and as he thanks the audience a number of times, you can feel the synthesis between artist and adoring crowd.
The final track of the evening comes in the form of ‘Penelope’, perhaps Cole’s most revered and well known. Interestingly, the video of this track was directed by Prince’s personal photographer Nicole Nodland. Such is the enthusiasm of the audience that he hardly even has to sing, as every word is thrown back at him as it leaves his lips. It’s undoubtedly the climax of the evening, leaving the crowd in a jubilant mood as they fan off outside to catch some fresh air after a truly fire experience.
To see Col3trane at this relatively early stage is to have seen something special. Having sold out the venue, you have to think about the many more who probably didn’t get through the doors. Cole is an artist that clearly has a shining path ahead of him. Seeing him in such an intimate setting, with his adamant fans, is a treat, and I imagine that in the coming years we will look back and say proudly “I saw Col3trane at Birthdays in 2018”.
His next stop is a supporting spot alongside Chicago rapper Vic Mensa on Dua Lipa’s UK & Ireland tour, allowing Col3trane a chance to grace a series of much bigger stages. The tour climaxes at London’s Ally Pally (once again, sold out), which boasts a capacity of over 10,000.
This is an artist moving from strength to strength at a rapid speed and there’s no shortage of excitement to see what the future holds for Col3trane.