The 02 Forum in Kentish Town is already heaving when I arrive to join the eager queue of fans getting their tickets checked. Smoke from a jerk chicken stand mills over the entrance stalls and before we even get in, there is already a marked buzz – it is after all Nines’s first ever headline show in London, and boy has it been a long time coming.
Releasing his first mixtape ‘From Church Road To Hollywood’ in 2012, it has taken Nines 6 years of navigating hurdles to reach this point. Since being locked up in HMP Wormwood Scrubs in 2013 for intention to supply cannabis, Nines’s music career has been balanced between life on the roads of Harlesden and the growing influence of rap on the UK music industry. Acutely aware of this – Nine’s tapes ‘One Foot In’ and ‘One Foot Out’ have highlighted the duality and struggle between his music and life in Church Road, where he grew up. It was while he was in prison that Nines reached his first million views on a Youtube video with his ‘Fire In The Booth’. Subsequently, Nines has never slowed his momentum, releasing a slew of work up until this year’s ‘Crop Circle’.
Tonight, we’re here to witness the culmination of Nines’ journey with his ‘Crop Circle’ tour.
Starting strong, as he walks out to his first track ‘Trapper of The Year’, from the get go, the audience are animated and out to party. Many will have been waiting a long time for this moment (a slew of complications due to previous police intervention prevented previous performances) but tonight everyone is making the most of it. Walking back and forth to chants of “that makes me the trapper’s trapper of the year”, Nines’ stage set is illuminated like the London skyline, adorned with structures of Big Ben and the London Eye, and crafted to look like they’re made of ice, or perhaps diamonds. Behind him, various visuals glitch back and forth on a massive screen – scenes from his videos merged with effects, as lasers and lights flash across the audience. Having been to a number of shows at the Forum, this is one of the more elaborate stage set ups I’ve seen in this space.
Following his opening track, Nines slows the pace down with a poignant message: “I never thought I’d get to do this – the feds have been here”. Dubbed ‘The Crop Circle Tour Part 2’, the original schedule in May was marred by a cancellation of the London leg due to ‘safety concerns’. This makes tonight especially meaningful – even though he’s performed at various venues internationally in the past, and at UK music festivals, this is the first time that Nines has had the go ahead in London as a headline artist. This wasn’t for lack of demand (the tickets for this show sold out in under a minute), due to heavy handed policing tactics that prevented Nines shows from taking place he was even barred from entering Wireless Festival in 2017, where he was booked to appear as a guest for Tory Lanez.
This intersection between Nines’ run in with the law, and his music career, create an intensity in the air, giving it more of a celebratory theme than your standard show. The atmosphere is complimented by the fact that Nines has decided to showcase the music of his musical network – throughout the evening we are treated to guest performances from Haile, Skrapz, Tiggz Da Author, Hardy Caprio, One Acen, SL, Suspect and Jesse James Solomon – each artist performing their best known tracks. SL reels off ‘Gentleman’ and ‘Tropical’ for example, to a massive positive audience outburst in glee. Tonight is clearly designed to be a celebration of UK Rap, and all the barriers it has overcome to get to this point.
Finishing with uplifting track ‘I See You Shining’, Nines closes with the sobering statement “the feds are still waiting outside”, highlighting that his problems with the authorities may be far from over. Leaving the stage, NWA’s ‘Fuck The Police’ fills the room as we all shuffle out. Leaving with smiles on our faces, despite police concerns, there wasn’t a whiff of trouble all evening. It’s a feeling of pure satisfaction to finally be able to see one of our most iconic UK artists perform on his home turf.