I’ve seen Dr. Syntax live a couple of times before, always playing with The Mouse Outfit, and every show has been a slick, lively affair. I’ve been a fan of Pete Cannon’s production work for a long time, and his contributions to various albums and mixtapes have often been my favourite tracks, so I was looking forward to seeing them perform a set together, and their gig at The Hifi Club in Leeds was rather eventful.
Pete Cannon, looking like he’d walked straight off the plane on arrival from some beach resort, donned in the classic hip hop attire of pink shorts and a white vest, took to the decks, and Dr. Syntax launches into ‘We Ain’t Going Nowhere’, a track from The Mouse Outfit’s ‘Escape Music’ album. This track sounds just as big tonight as in a full band setup, and definitely starts to attract the attention of a somewhat distracted crowd. The Sunday Joint is packed with students during University term time, but tonight is more of an intimate affair, which is acknowledged by Synners. I can’t help but think that the true wittiness and relevance of the lyrics of ‘My House’ was slightly lost on tonight’s crowd, despite this, the flow was on point and the multi’s delivered with tight precision.
‘Meltdown’ follows, and this banger from Syntax’s LP with Tom Caruana shakes the low ceiling of HiFi. ‘Middle Class Problems’, taken from tonight’s performers’ ‘Killer Combo’ album, is next, and I have to say Quinoa is most probably the best topic of a rap verse for a very long time. This track is one of my favourites from the album, and the deadpan delivery of ‘I’ve got a gay dog’ cracks me up every time, and seeing it in the flesh was no exception.
Next comes the first hilarity. A girl from the audience manages to catch Dr. Syntax’s attention, and asks a really fantastic question: ‘Do you do any reggae?’. Thought that was worth mentioning to be honest.
It was great to hear ‘Grotty’ included in the set. This is an absolute smacker of a song, and Synners & Pete both deliver their verses with clear enthusiasm and enjoyment. Although the crowd might not have been the perfect audience for ‘My House’, the topic of ‘Hire Me’ was probably more up their street. Syntax didn’t let up, running through so many absolutely banging hip hop tracks, and it was excellent to hear ‘Max Miller’. This was one of the first tracks from Benny Huge to catch my ear, way back on the Self Taught album.
Then comes another hilarity. Without breaking a sweat, Dr. Syntax freestyles some good humoured disses at a member of the crowd, after the member of the audience tried to gain his attention mid song. Of course, it turns out tonight is his birthday, and Synners manages a very good save, encouraging the entire room to give the guy a round of applause. A master of the stage!
Immediately getting back on track, Dr. Syntax won over any doubt left in anyone’s mind, with a tongue twisting acapella. This audience might not have been filled with a hardcore hip hop crowd, but it takes a truly dope lyricist to silence a room and keep everyone in the crowd hanging on every word, and that’s exactly what happens.
As the end of the set draws closer, Dr. Syntax & Pete Cannon raise the energy levels, finishing on ‘Weed & Ale’. The crowd go nuts for the DnB drop at the end of the track, and it’s the perfect closer. This was a great set of live hip hop from one of the UK’s best rappers and one of the UK’s best producers.
By Sam Bennett