Dan Davies checks out Yasmin and Sway at the HMV Next Big Thing Festival at a snow capped Borderline venue, deep in Soho.
Ironically for an artist whose debut single was called ‘On My Own‘, Yasmin has been creating a buzz with the names she’s been hanging with. After being spotted by N.E.R.D.‘s Pharrell Williams, she first hit the big time with a sultry vocal accompliment to Devlin’s council estate busting words in ‘Runaway‘.
Her first solo linkup was with esteemed drum and bass producers, Shy FX, who have been instrumental in setting the Funky Drummer template. Even the follow up to the balladeer-in-my-pointy-bra breakup song, ‘Finish Line’, despite its chart intentions, still keeps its underground credentials with some excellent remixes with both the street and dance floor in mind. Credit on this balancing act is in some part due to the Ministry of Sound label mates that house her.
Tonight, as part of HMV’s Next Big Thing Festival, she appears alongside the ever-amiable and street-credible Sway. Who despite the evening’s title has long been a big deal in UK hip hop, since releasing his breakthrough anthem ‘On My Own‘ around eight years ago. With just a prank-laden DJ he breezes through some of his better known tracks from 2005’s ‘Up Your Speed‘, through to December’s recall ‘Still Speeding’. Sway manages to move a largely uninitiated crowd with a fair amount of call and response. Excerpts from the hugely anticipated ‘The Deliverance’ have a Pendulum style swing and a chart push. Sway hints that this record store sponsored PA might at least assure him “good racking” when it’s released. On the strength of this performance Sway is about to shift into another gear.
Dressed for a snowball fight, Yasmin hits the stage with her four piece band, all in similar woollen hat apparel. Suitably warm from the off, they breathe real life into her studio productions, particularly with ‘I Told Ya‘ and new track MJ Cole co-written track ‘I Love The Way’ – before we cool down for the acoustic midsection. Stripped back, the lyrical competence of the songs are laid starkly bare. This is no more blatant with the terribly unsubtle ‘Five Minutes’ which ends the poor chorus with a blunt “fuck you”. Thankfully it picks up again with a Diplo collaboration and a flawless cover of Shy FX’s ‘Shake Your Body‘. With a drummer who can keep up the BPM, a hooked bass and some great guitar licks you feel that this is the temperature she could be all night.
Instead of going out guns blazin’, Yasmin plays her current single ‘Light Up The World‘, a pleasant enough reggae-lite anthem which is sure to get T4 on the Beach audiences waving their phones this summer. Yasmin has a choice, either she wants to walk down the middle of the road or take some interesting dance detours. Let’s hope she goes the route less traveled with the right traveling companions.