Manchester rap star’s almighty flex
Aitch sure knows how to throw a party, and this one – the biggest date on a sold-out UK tour – has it all. Acid trip visuals, multicolored strobes, surprise guests, and at the center of the chaos, born artist Harrison Armstrong, standing tall and proud behind a pyrotechnic display that spits fire, smoke, and lasers. With flames so powerful you can feel the heat from across the room, its setup certainly makes it an almighty flex.
Dressed in a leather jacket embellished with tonight’s date and the London skyline, the Mancunian rapper has every reason to celebrate. His year’s successes were prodigious: that 10,000-seat concert at the capital’s Alexandra Palace long sold out, while his long-awaited debut album, August’s ‘Close To Home’, landed at number two. after lead single “Baby” – which interpolates Ashanti’s 2003 hit, “Rock Wit U”, which spent an entire summer in the Top 10. Recent adverts for Lynx and Relentless Energy also suggest a young artist business savvy plays the game and has fun with it.
Alone but for a DJ, Aitch kicks off with ‘Taste (Make It Shake)’, the same track that saw him rise from the online battlegrounds of UK rap and into the mainstream in 2018. His performance sees him go the era-to-era relay, transitioning from the tumultuous “Buss Down” (from 2019’s “AitcH20” mixtape) to the edgy breakbeats of “Raw,” while seeing every stream through to the end.
But the 22-year-old is also trying hard to share the spotlight. Aitch is a playful and instinctive host, eager to involve everyone in the action. Throughout a nearly two-hour set, appearances from a pantheon of peers include Tion Wayne, AJ Tracey, Young T & Bugsey, Giggs and ArrDee. When the latter takes the stage for the incandescent collaboration ‘War’, flexing his muscles like a pocket Popeye, the similarities between the pair are almost startling: tight blonde cuts, wide eyes, ever-playful smiles. “Who thinks me and him look alike?” Aitch said, stating the obvious as he turned to face his friend, offering both a fist bump and a knowing wink. Thousands of voices scream in agreement.
Some of the visceral thrill of Aitch’s twisting bars is inevitably lost in the wide-open space of this venue. When he teams up with Coventry-via-Kent duo A1 x J1 to blitz through their “Latest Trends” remix – a track that is hugely charismatic on record – his bright, jagged rhythms are reduced to a subtle growl of bass. , especially when A1’s mic doesn’t seem to be on. Aitch doesn’t seem to notice though; Away from the mic, he works the front rows like a seasoned pro, blowing kisses to fans and posing for photos – his unwavering self-confidence is clearly at work.
It’s the softer cuts that really prove his star power, as they allow Aitch to move between light and shadow. As he performs atop a raised platform, ‘Belgrave Road’s central theme of anxiety undermines his reputation as a cheeky flirt, while ‘My G’ sees him welding a chorus to hard work. about his family life – especially his relationship with his younger sister. “Make some noise for the people you love,” he shouts as his final chorus rings out, and the whole room vanishes in a cloud of dopamine.
‘Taste (shake it)’
‘Bring it back’
‘Strike A Pose’ (with Young T & Bugsey)
‘Latest trends’ (with A1 x J1)
“Keisha & Becky”
‘War’ (with ArrDee)
‘Safe to say’
“Let’s Go” (with Tion Wayne)
‘Just Coz’ (featuring Giggs)
‘Close to the house’
‘Rain’ (featuring AJ Tracey)