”]“We’re not a big band,” said one half of Ugly Duckling’s MC taskforce, Andy Cooper, “We don’t have guitars, drums, basses, trombones or a full orchestra: only the skill of our DJ Young Einstein and some janky ass turntables”. Along with Dizzy Dustin, another master of wordplay, these three hip-hop aficionados were bigger than the sum of their parts and owned the stage as well as the crowd at the exclusive and intimate Sneaky Pete’s on a humid Halloween in the ancient city of Edinburgh.
The gig warmed up with Young Einstein, sipping Irn-Bru, casually playing and mixing a couple of classic soul records, before the MCs meandered onto stage and started working the crowd. Backed up by the turntable wizardry and split-second timing of the DJ’s funky beats, the 2 MCs rapped an introduction to the gig before bullet-training into their set. Never have I seen a band with as much audience interaction on and off the stage: very shy and unassuming off it and brimming with bravado and confidence on it. The music makes them come alive and they bring the audience along with them. The music certainly does that on its own anyway, being full of witty, fresh lyrics and saturated with South American funky rhythms.
Hip-hop like this is very accessible, if only people would open their ears and discover the untapped genius of Ugly Duckling. There is no whiff of negativity in any of their songs: nothing about guns, ‘ho’s, beeyatches, or anything “Gangsta” related. The unveiling of Einstein’s chunky jewellery is a major event in the show, leading into Eye on the Gold Chain satirising the bling-bling decadence of some of the rap industry’s main proponents. Another highlight is when a willing young lady is plucked from the audience to be subjected to a rendition of Pick Up Line. Lesser known songs from their recently released LP, Moving at Breakneck Speed are just as enthusiastically received by the fervent crowd, even singing along to the chorus of Elevation.
With Ugly Duckling, you are guaranteed a jumping night out with a skilled bunch of audience baiters. My only complaint was that I never wanted their set to finish, but I wouldn’t begrudge them a rest after almost an hour and a half of non-stop grooving and hand swaying. Afterwards, they were more than happy to spend time talking with fans, their soft spoken and seemingly sheepish nature incongruous with their onstage presence. Surely they should have had more arrogance and swagger after a performance like that. I am, however, glad to see that one of the hardest working bands in hip-hop not succumbing to the deserved adulation of their dedicated fans.
Click here for the official Ugly Duckling website