Published 31/10/2011 | 05:00
The Academy, dublin
Professor Green comes to Ireland with the wind at his back. Reviews of his new record, At Your Inconvenience, have been almost unanimously positive, and there's a decent chance he'll debut at number one in the UK album charts next week. But his good luck seems to have run out rather dramatically in Dublin as his equipment is stolen from outside the venue, raising the chilling possibility that the Hackney rapper might have to cancel a sell-out show.
Thankfully, a Twitter appeal for the instruments to be returned proves successful and the concert goes ahead. Flanked by a backing vocalist and second rapper, the impish Green -- a Tin Tin dead ringer down to the cowlick -- looks thoroughly unfazed. We expect rappers to be intense and angry and, while Green's music is often both, on stage he cuts an almost joyful figure. If his smile was any brighter, the die-hard fans down the front would need mirror-shades.
It isn't so long since UK hip-hop was a joke without a punchline. However, the past 10 years have seen the genre grow up with a vengeance. Starting with Dizzee Rascal, British rhymers found a way to direct the energy of the streets into music as hard-hitting as anything coming out of New York or LA yet with a pop sensibility that sounded great blaring out of day-time radio.
Green -- real name Stephen Manderson -- has been described as the UK's answer to Eminem. Blonde hair and tattoo aside, the comparisons probably have as much to do with his troubled personal life as his music, which favours blunt beats over Slim Shady's sarcasm.
In 2008, Green's father committed suicide; last year Manderson nearly bled to death when he was stabbed with a bottle in a Shoreditch nightclub. These tragedies have been channelled into his song-writing, resulting in lyrics that wear their emotions on their sleeves like bloodied bandages.
The problem is that, alongside his desire to write confessional songs, Green wants to be a pop star.
At The Academy, this makes for a sometimes uncomfortable mix of grit and glamour. Head bowed low, he spits out hard-hitting lines about his difficult childhood. But it is hard to reconcile this tortured honesty with an often candy-coated pop sensibility and a mockney braggadocio that comes off as Lily Allen for pre-teens. In the long run, Manderson needs to decide whether he wishes to be entertainer or artist.