If someone had told you 15 years ago that Giggs, a road-rap icon from Peckham, and Diddy, a rap mogul from the US, would one day perform together on stage in Shepherd’s Bush, you may have received some strange reactions. Giggs, known for his quintessentially British bars, delivers them in a half-spoken style, with lines like “Walk in the party sporting Armani / half of the crowd’s all snorting my charlie,” giving off the impression of a heavy smoker driving through the drizzly streets of south London. On the other hand, Diddy is full of energy and flashy catchphrases, embodying the glitzy personality that has helped launch the careers of artists like Mary J Blige and the Notorious BIG.
However, the rising popularity of UK rap has made it seem fitting for them to perform together. Giggs, dressed in a black tracksuit and exuding confidence, shares with the enthusiastic sold-out audience that they could have chosen to perform in a large arena, but instead opted for a more intimate and lively atmosphere. All proceeds from ticket sales are being donated to charity. As Giggs begins to perform his energetic hits “Whippin Excursion” and his iconic verse on Drake’s “KMT”, the crowd passionately sings along to his “Batman” punchline. On stage, Giggs stands firm and determined, as if he is making a final stand.
His friend Diddy, who is now 54 years old and just released a surprisingly impressive R&B-influenced album, is a stark contrast. He is dressed in opulent white and enthusiastically dad-dancing. In between quickly performing his most well-known songs (such as “Bad Boy for Life”), he humorously directs the DJ to avoid playing explosion noises when he mentions the word “Love.” He charmingly confesses to feeling nervous and appears most at ease when he is unexpectedly joined by guests, including Shyne, a former rapper from Bad Boy who is now running for prime minister in Belize.
The performance reaches new heights when Diddy and Giggs come together for their powerful, uplifting duet Mandem. It’s unfortunate that there aren’t more of these moments, as evidenced by Giggs’ brief but mesmerizing call-and-response verse during Diddy’s rendition of Warning by the late Biggie. However, these moments are cut short too soon. The show would benefit from less solo performances and a greater emphasis on the unexpected chemistry between the two artists.
However, the hits and guests are so relentless – UK star Potter Payper also comes out – it’s impossible not to feel energised. Giggs standing with Diddy is a reminder of UK rap’s journey from British accents being openly mocked to universally embraced, and how the bridge between London and New York City rap now has foundations so solid that gigs like this feel anything but strange.