Cex London Upstairs At The Garage, 6 September 2003

Highly anticipated this one. We’ve been wanting to see Cex for so long for him to be anything other than the totally incredible, perma-freestyling live rap king we’ve built up in our minds would break our hearts.

But he is not what we expected. He is eight foot tall, for a start, and we expected mid-height. And he’s wearing a long red skirt, (bought, he informs us, from Camden Market earlier), and these big ol’ Buffalos. His hair is in bunches and has a patch missing that he seems to have gone at quite savagely with a razor. Eyeliner smudges across his face. He is gangly…

But he does not break our heart. He rocks our ass off. Woomph!

A cry of "WHO LET THE GOTHS OUT!" tears across the front of the room as the weird man-child stalks onstage. Opening with "a song about fingering", Cex proceeds to spend the vast majority of the show In The Crowd – a painfully geeky in the main but surprisingly energetic collection of awkward white people clutching at their spectacles – and is already greased with sweat by the time the last snare of the aforementioned jam slices home. He talks engagingly and cutely between songs about his adventures in our fair land (he’s had all his stuff robbed, he thinks it would be pretentious to pronounce "Garage" how we would), but most strikingly of all, that vague Nine Inch Nails influence we smelled on ‘Being Ridden’ has grown into a full on obsession – almost half of the beats sound like they’re ripped straight from ‘Pretty Hate Machine’, and tonight you’re just as likely to catch your man screaming Deep Pain as you are rocking Deep Flows… and, surprisingly, this does not suck… when Cex clambers out of the people and stands atop a monitor singing something quite touching and sad about how he fucked up his life in Baltimore and none of his old friends give a fuck about him anymore it is a brilliant, and tragic moment, and we feel a vague tear well up.

The party emcee we hoped for is still alive though, thank God, and we get a lot of ill rhyming couplets, although, sadly, only one track from the hip-hop classic ‘Tall Dark And Handcuffed’, and it’s that "Get on your bikes and ride" one, which was pretty dark anyway, and the call and response doesn’t work as well as it should… but that is a little niggle amid a set that is mainly joyful, apart from when it’s upsetting, but then it’s exhilarating anyway, and one only wishes Cex could a: play over here more often and b: for longer, because he really doesn’t. Like, dude has seven hundred songs to choose from. Half an hour just won’t cut it!

The solution, of course, is simple. Buy all the Cex records you can find. Badger local promoters. Call radio stations. MAKE CEX SO MASSIVE HE IS FORCED TO PLAY 2 HOUR SETS! Of course, he won’t be rocking the whole show from the crowd then… but we can’t be selfish about these things. Cex is for everybody, yo.

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