Wireless 2021: A Celebration of Lyrical Flow

★★★★☆
How do you compete with a global superstar coming out as a special guest? Megan Thee Stallion showed it’s more than possible.

drake

★★★★☆

How do you compete with a global superstar coming out as a special guest on the opening night? Megan Thee Stallion showed the way.

Megan Thee Stallion’s daring, energetic performance had near-perfect choreography.

For a music scene that typically professes a hard demeanour, it was clearly difficult to hold back the emotion. Crowds of twenty-something-year-olds, in a bucket hat bonanza, listening to their favourite artists at the 50,000-capacity venue in Crystal Palace Park. Having German Doner Kebab as a co-sponsor made sense. This was the night out (well, technically, a weekend of day fests) that people had wanted in yonks.

Of course, there was that appearance. The only place to start. It was a special guest performance, the impact of which was still being spoken about on Sunday.

For a music scene that typically professes a hard demeanour, it was clearly difficult to hold back the emotion

Fresh after his album Certified Lover Boy shot to number one in the charts, Drake was brought out by Future on the Friday for an impromptu feature. ‘Hey Wireless, the boy is home’ flashed on the screen – a shrewd sentiment, given this was a British summer full of hope and anticipation for coming home. The wild rush of celebration was coupled, if anything, with disbelief.

‘I would not have wanted my first show back to be anywhere other than Wireless,’ he told the jubilant mass. You can only imagine the ecstasy.

Headie One announced onstage he’s dropping a new mixtape next month. Credit: Jordan Curtis-Hughes.

The weekend of festivities then had itself a unique challenge: how do you top that? Which special guests were going to play now? Was the bar set too high?

Even ZieZie, a rising star from South London who’s already amassed over 200 million streams and performed on the Palace Stage on Saturday, was somewhat starstruck by the ‘crazy moment [Drake] came out’.

Which special guests were going to play now? Was the bar set too high?

ZieZie’s confidence following his performance on the sunlit Palace Stage was clearly on show. ‘I should have been over there,’ he told whynow, pointing to the main stage. ‘Hopefully someone brings me out.’

With a spate of new singles due to be released by the end of 2021, and a new album set to drop ‘hopefully at the beginning of next year’, there’s every chance he may well do. It’s clear for aspiring rappers, this is the festival to cut your teeth and solidify your act.

Central Ce showed on the Sunday why he’s one of London’s greatest young talents right now. Credit: Jordan Curtis-Hughes.

At one point, Central Cee asked the crowd to help him produce a music video. Credit: Jordan Curtis-Hughes.

DTG, another rising talent, who was brought out by S1mba to play their smash hit ‘Rover’, struck a similar tone of astonishment and ambition. Though admittedly his first festival was Reading and Leeds just two weeks before (‘I’ve never been to festivals before; I’ve just never really been that sort of person’), the experience didn’t disappoint.

‘Coming here post-lockdown,’ he said, ‘it’s just good to see everyone out enjoying themselves. It’s lit.’ On a personal note, too, DTG only grew up ten minutes away from the arena. He may not have travelled far, but for his career this felt like a ‘significant’ moment.

Central Cee showed why he’s one of London’s greatest young talents right now

More heart-felt acts would follow. Fredo delivered a more melodic, danceable side to grime on the Main Stage on the Saturday, before Swae Lee gave a touching tribute to being in London. (Swae Lee was particularly buoyed following one of the more unusual moments across the weekend when his mic didn’t work. ‘When this mic comes back on, I’m a f**k s**t up,’ he let us know).

Central Cee, too, gave an impressive performance on the Sunday and showed why he’s one of London’s greatest young talents right now. He showed his popularity, too, when the crowd helped him film a music video, in a moment that seemed to epitomise the modern world we live in.

This was a London party fans had waited two years for.

Skepta gave a strong headline performance on the Saturday. Credit: Jordan Curtis-Hughes.

Other noticeable moments included Dappy still showing he had a pull factor on the Sunday with a set that harked back to simpler times; Meek Mill dishing out his first ever UK performance; and Headie One announcing onstage he’s dropping a new mixtape, ‘Too Loyal… For My Own Good’, next month.

The true hero, though, was Megan Thee Stallion. The 26-year-old Texan’s daring, energetic performance with near-perfect choreography provided some female empowerment to an otherwise blokey weekend (indeed, there were only four women on the entire line-up). Tracks like ‘Cash Shit’ and ‘Crybaby’ showed that few things are more fun than expressing sheer confidence.

Tracks like ‘Cash Shit’ and ‘Crybaby’ showed that few things are more fun than expressing sheer confidence

‘She’s the GOAT,’ one fan mouthed to their mate in front of me. It was certainly hard – in that moment – not watch and think she was up there with the greatest of all time. Strong words, undoubtedly, but if she continues to set festivals alight in such a way, it may be hard to argue against at some point in time.

Closing the weekend was Migos, the trio from Georgia, who were headlining the festival for a third year in a row. Inducing a mosh-pit mania for their well-known hits, it was certainly a worthy headliner – as much as Skepta’s driven performance on the Saturday, who donned all-black and a chain of bullets round his body. But Megan Thee Stallion would be the one to show who was really boss and helped bring the festival back with an explosive bang.


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