Ok, it's not the usual way to start a review but tonight was all about shout-outs, so first of all props to the girls on the door at Cargo who were the nicest we've come across in London in a while.
Right, to business. After Jurassic 5 split in 2007, Chali 2na, arguably their MVP, returned last night with a low-key club date that saw him playing with a full band, the House of Vibe Allstars, plus DJ Dez and possibly the most laidback hype-man, 2na's brother Laidlaw. It's an organic setup and makes for a tight gig, refreshing after messy dates from the likes of Ghostface earlier this year that was little more than a PA from the rapper.
The new material from Fish Outta Water and 2004 mixtape Fish Market doesn't deviate too much from the J5 template, though if anything there's more diversity to the samples and sounds. Set-opener "International" and the double-time "Step Your Game Up" get people moving with bubbling electro breaks, "Don't Stop" is a soulful cut, graffiti anthem "Graff Time" one from the old-skool. There are a range of 70s soul sounds too, with twinkling retro keyboards on "Welcome to the Fish Market", "So Crazy"’s choppy cop-show synths, and 2na opening up his heart for the slow-jam of "Love's Gonna Getcha".
We get a bunch of J5 tracks too, with the Hammond-heavy "What's Golden" proving to be the set highlight. Taking on "Quality Control" solo temporarily floors him when he misses a line, but he restarts amid cheers of support and the crowd mouth along to every line with him. In a 90-minute set he doesn't allow the tempo to drop for one moment from start to finish, and even the inevitable band introductions and solos don't outstay their welcome.
All the while, the rapper is his effervescent self and his rich, rapid-fire flow, delivered in his much-loved baritone, preaches peace, love and unity, as he pays respect to London, how much J5 mean to the crowd - even now he refers to himself as "Chali 2na from Jurassic 5" - and his mom.
That he tells the crowd he'll sign anything after the set and proceeds to entertain all-comers for half an hour tells you all you need to know about the night.