Tonight, I learn three things about Rahzel. As a person, he makes a very bad impression. As a performer, he has room for improvement. Yet, as an artistic talent, he straddles godlike status. The debate that this poses is, should the first two facts mean that we ignore the man's musical expertise, or should we allow his talent to blind us to his negative aspects. Should we be prepared to offer Rahzel the benefit of the doubt?

Rahzel's appearance was certainly something of a coup for our little campus venue, although holding a concert in Exeter, a town whose thirst for hip-hop is most certainly unquenched, makes for much more of an event than a London show, where performances by musicians as big or bigger than Rahzel are almost nightly occurrences. This meant that there was a genuinely excitable atmosphere tonight, and no one should be any doubt about whether the crowd were "up" for the gig, and whether they enjoyed it.

That said, we cannot forget the flaws. Ignoring that Rahzel's priority seemed to be how best to take advantage of the Devon "talent", he has some pretty basic lessons to learn regarding how to develop and sustain momentum through a performance. He took far too long to get going, the standard took a deep dive as the conclusion neared, as he aimed for lowest-common-denominator dance hits rather than the cutting edge hip-hop he is capable of, and there were far too many pointless interludes (for example, handing out roses to the "ladies." I mean, why??)

But, despite all the downsides, it was still a great gig. At their peak, Rahzel and his sidekick, DJ JS - 1, were revelatory. Skating confidently between technical sophistication and commercial accessibility, the music was fresh, fun and still innovative. Rahzel is a good rapper, if not a great one, and JS - 1 a genuinely great turntablist, but it was Rahzel's "human beat-box" guise we were all here for, and his takes on Kanye West, Jay-Z and Wu Tang Clan did not disappoint. Best of all, his version of the White Stripes' '7 Nation Army' had to be heard to be believed, although it did confirm that most of the crowd were, like myself, indie kids seeking to be eclectic.

Sadly, the show was spoilt by one incident. Rahzel's petty insistence on the crowd not using cameras cumulated in one audience member being verbally attacked from the stage and forced to exit the show. Perhaps the offender could have been more respectful, and, indeed, no one can say they weren't glad to have Rahzel here or that his talent does not command respect, but I am not sure his star shines bright enough to excuse an ego quite so inflated.

The conclusion? Rahzel makes great music, is a unique performer, and I am glad I can say I've seen him in the flesh. It still baffles me how he makes the sounds he does, and though not comparable to a Jimi Hendrix, he possesses a true gift. But, his personality spoilt a great event somewhat, which was quite a shame, but not a disaster (unless you were the guy who got thrown out...)

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Commenting On: Lemon Grove, Exeter, 15/10/2004 - Rahzel and DJ JS-1

ie London, England

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