Photography by: @visualsbythanu
It feels like longer ago than 2018 that Unknown T appeared, hidden behind sunglasses he is yet to take off, with his debut single, ‘Homerton B’. Even now, after a string of more singles, mixtapes and EPs, that track remains his most famous, its title refrain serving as everything from an ad-lib to an interlude throughout his set at KOKO.
Five years on from that track’s arrival, Unknown T is ready to release his official debut in January next year, but he will do so in a very different environment from when he started. Now, drill music is at the forefront of UK hip-hop and British popular music more generally, thanks, in no small part, to the Homerton native’s efforts.
The breadth and popularity of drill was on display at KOKO. Not only was the venue packed on both floors long before Unknown T himself even took the stage, but the audience was eclectic.
For all the people who had supported drill from the start, there were also, perhaps unsurprisngly, countless young teenagers in grey tracksuits throwing gun signs to the sky.
Before Unknown T appeared, the DJ played a host of the biggest rap songs from the last half-decade, riling up the young crowd and adding to the air of celebration. This show was rescheduled from earlier in the year, and the adjusted date was used to coincide with the announcement of Blood Diamond, announced earlier in the week.
The album takes its title from the 2006 film of the same name, starring Leonardo di Caprio and focusing on the blood diamond trade in Sierra Leone, with the country in the midst of civil war. An official album trailer is filled with references to the film, and sees the artist Olaolu Slawn playing a younger version of Unknown T.
Diamonds, you feel, are a running theme, unavoidable in the Unknown T’s music, merch, and even looking at him, given the ludicrously large, diamond-encrusted ‘T’ that hangs around his neck.
One of the highlights from the set was ‘SS Interlude’, from 2020’s Rise Above Hate EP. In an evening filled with energy and gun fingers in the air, the Sweet Symphony not only proved the value of a good interlude in live music as well on albums, but showed how underrated a vocalist Unknown T is. This latter ability is also on display in his latest single, ‘Bon Appétit’.
Also telling was the gratitude Unknown T shared for his mother and grandmother. It’s clear, on nights like this, playing packed shows in one of London’s flagship venues with an official studio album on the way, that he does not take this position for granted.
It can be difficult when your first track strikes gold. With the projects released since ‘Homberton B’, Unknown T has shown that it wasn’t a fluke while staying close enough to the sound that did garner him that original success. On Blood Diamond, we will see him across a wider scope than before as he also moves further and further from the legal difficulties that plagued his early career.