10 things we learnt at wireless festival
We went down Finsbury Park this weekend to see how music found its voice at London's largest festival.
photography ben gibson
From Drake to Jay Z, Wireless has hosted some of the world's biggest rappers during their 11-year festival history, which has seen thousands descend on London (and, in 2014, Birmingham) parks ranging from Hyde to Finsbury. For the first time this year though, it was time for a UK act to take the headline spot, as Boy Better Know closed proceedings, the first grime act to do so in Wireless's history. With the last few weeks steeped in heavy political turmoil and civic unrest, it was little surprise to see a number of issues raised throughout the weekend - with #BlackLivesMatter being top of the bill.
1. Artists showed solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement
While thousands marched across London and Birmingham throughout the weekend to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in the US, a number of American performers used their platform to voice their frustrations about the recent cases of police violence. Miguel shed tears while he spoke intimately with the crowd, with a conscious message to take action: "We can't just let shit blow over and not take action anymore..." he said. "We cannot rest anymore. We have to do something! We have to say something…" Rapper Vic Mensa also paid tribute to the victims of police brutality Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and followed this up with 16 shots, which referenced the number of times Laquan McDonald was shot by Chicago Police. The crowd screamed at the top of their lungs,along with Mensa, the number of every shot fired - sending emotions high and the true realities of the unfolding horrors.
2. Krept & Konan got wavey with the festive spirit.
Swept away in the moment while in the middle of their international street anthem Don't Waste My Time, Konan teased the crowd before throwing himself into a sea of hands - leaving the security staff sweating to save him from the throng.
3. J Cole proved his performance power
His smooth, honest storytelling had many doubting whether the N.C composer could hold a headline set. The pinnacle moment, however, was when 10,000 people filled the air with heart-felt Would you believe if I said I'm in love? during his rendition of Power Trip - proving ultimately that Londoners love us some J Cole.
4. Chase & Status win Jump Man Award 2016
A$AP Ferg came a close second for inspiring the crowd to take flight during New Level but the award this year goes to Chase & Status who sent over 50,000 people in the air jumping for their full main stage set. With the support of Tempa T and Novelist, their festival experience masterfully merged the very best mix of British electronic bass music.
5. Young Thug should have been on the main stage.
While Jess Glynne took the main stage, Young Thug performed in the much smaller Pepsi Max tent leaving trap fans furious that they couldn't experience the full performance due to overcrowding. Some Londoners were so eager they climbed on to portaloos just to catch the reactions to Best Friends.
6. Ghetts brought out special guest Kano
His energy from the beginning is always turned up to gas mark 10 and Ghett's festival stage show is no exception. The Artillery rhymer pulled a huge crowd that channeled his hyperactive enthusiasm - even with his early time slot. The Freedom Of Speech street banger Buss 1 eased the crowd in nicely to One Take, but it was when G.H brought out Kano - who barely said 3 wheel-ups in a row, I'm a direct rudeboy - before an immediate mosh pit ensued with open water bottles thrown in the air for good measure. If you've never seen Ghetts live before, just make sure you do soon.
7. Finsbury Park inspired everyone to wear their own garms.
If it wasn't British brands like Place + Faces, Trapstar or Marbek, attendees were exercising their creative expressions for their love of music. We spoke to a young music fan who wanted to be referred to by his Instagram name '@captainrecklesss' who created his own Boy Better Know football jersey. With the classic logo on the front, he chose his favourite MC Skepta as the back name and number 10 for how much he rated his lyrics. He left us with this lasting thought: "BBK 4 LIFE".
8. Insane stage sets are the new norm
In an overwhelmingly British takeover of Wireless, artists took their stage sets to the next level, battling it out to represent their capital city with the most insane props. Krept & Konan brought a whole underground train carriage into their showcase while BBK had a camera inside their circa 2000 BT payphone box - with added 616 graffiti tags and coin scratches to make it a more authentic. Throughout their performances we saw affiliates making a couple of phone calls - maybe it was their mummy on the phone?
9. Skepta brought out Pharrell
Anticipation for the BBK showcase was in the air the whole weekend and Shorty, Frisco, Skepta, JME, Jammer and Solo 45 didn't disappoint. Skepta, dressed in overalls with Texas Chain Saw Massacre's face on the front, was ready to shock the crowd and he surely did that by pulling out Neptune's front man Pharrell to deliver Numbers from his recently released Konnichiwa album. This isn't the first time the pair have hung out recently; Skep recently took Skateboard P to Dalston's finest Alibi.
10. Boy Better Know shut down Wireless 2016
It was only up the road from Finsbury Park that most of the BBK team grew up in Tottenham. After a decade of being underrated, years of independent grafting and countless worldwide performances, they finally returned home sweet home to perform at the London's biggest festival as mainstage headliners. Last year headliner Drake brought out Skepta to the main stage to perform Shutdown and everyone lost their mind, prompting a resounding call for Wireless and other festivals to support more British music and give them better stage and time slots. Wireless clearly took heed and crashed the Internet when they announced 2016's line-up - and rightly so. Alongside Skepta who performed anthem Shutdown, and That's Not Me with his brother JME, Solo 45 had the crowd roaring, just like he did at Culture Clash, with Feed Em To The Lions. New-school veteran Novelist jumped out for the Konnichiwa Lyrics collab, while legendary grimelord D Double E exercised the crowd over Spyro's remix of Rebound X's Rhythm & Gash. As the finale fireworks exploded into the air after Skepta's Man(Gang) featuring countless cousins and family friends,it was a moment to take in - grime has finally started to receive the recognition it so rightfully deserved.
Text Laura Brosnan
Photography Ben Gibson