Sir the Baptist’s provocative name has an equally profound history, because behind his art and work there is a preacher and maker of social change. He claims to ‘talk about revolution’ and ‘accountability’ for not spreading awareness on issues of discrimination and religion. He goes on to promote the notion of ‘An Urban Monk, a culturally enlightened person, an almost inhuman, self-educated social fighter of worldly problems without weapons or armor’; he embodies and acts like the social change we need today. So, when he was announced as Nelly’s support there was a high expectation in what he would teach a crowd full of people who were primarily there for a night of R’n’B and rap.
I have never been so disappointed. Never have I witnessed a set which was totally devoid of original songs but instead consisted of a club-style playlist which was carelessly rapped over. Sir the Baptist claimed he was there to get people ‘hyped’ before Nelly and although the rapid-fire chart tunes from Ed Sheeran to Jay-Z and Kanye West were comfortable and fun, they weren’t his. This made the man on stage who did little but jump and wave his arms and a drummer (made redundant by the tracks being blasted over him) totally useless on stage. Then followed the uncomfortable moments of dabbing and asking the crowd to hold hands, which garnered less and less response as his set went on. For an artist with some intense and soulful songs released, he left us with little more knowledge of him than his Instagram handle.
Underwhelmed and definitely not ‘hyped’ the crowd had an apprehensive tone for Nelly’s arrival.
But where Sir the Baptist lacked in embracing his individuality, Nelly succeeded. Very much an icon of confidence, Nelly carried his swagger on the stage with sunglasses on and his crew by his side. The fan favourites were all present with him proclaiming that only those with him from ‘day one’ would know them. Dilemma, Hot in Herre and Ride Wit Me were met with a rapturous response with drinks flying and everyone dancing and swaying along. More recent tracks and new releases of Millionaire (with Digital Farm Animals and Cash Cash) and All Work, No Play had positive responses. The club/party atmosphere was upbeat and the crowd had almost forgotten it was a Sunday evening.
The brand promotion was strong as different graphics including Nelly’s name and Derrty Crew as well as throwback clips of his music videos highlight the legacy that he is building, with almost 20 years in the music business. He proved he has the talent to maintain his status as he rapped with the speed and precision of a veteran by playing full songs with ease, unlike the snippets of his support.
It was a carefree night which was enjoyed because of the showmanship of Nelly and his crew. I only hope that Sir the Baptist can follow suit on the back of his own potential.