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Featuring Sam Tompkins and Victor Ray as our cover stars, as well as internal spreads from Girli, Jords, Mysie, Finn Askew, Kara Marni and Master Peace

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Fat Llama & Friends Vol. 5

You might have heard whispers of an up-and-coming American rapper fluttering through the winds of London; you might have heard rumours of the underground hip-hop scene steadily bubbling beneath our feet. Or maybe you have even seen the giant fuck-off-sized posters of Joejas that were in the Vans Oxford Street store for almost a year. Regardless, the Atlanta-born musician is shaking our fine capital city to its consistently crumbling core. 

Enter “Fat Llama and Friends”, a night designed to erode through the very structure of the London Hip-Hop scene and bring a bout of new, fresh-faced creatives to the forefront. Forget Grime and Drill; in the underground scene of London, Alt-Hop is in.  

As a batch of young, quirkily dressed artists filed through the doors of The George Tavern in London, an air of community filled the room and the fairy light-lit garden adjacent to the venue, the crowd mingling with each other and sharing social handles, making connections in the ever-evolving scene. 

“I love what Joe is doing here. The goal is to bring creatives together to get people on the scene; we all just kind of bump into each other all the time”

When putting on an evening of Hip-Hop, it’s always a good idea to drip your pinky toe into the proverbial pond before going completely balls to the wall with bombastic beats and berating the eardrums of anyone close enough to feel the frequencies. Enter Psolariis, self-described “illustrator, artist and musician” from London, to kick the evening off with some (as event organiser Joejas put it) “sultry” and “ethereal” sounds, to ease the crowd into becoming one with the dimly lit room.

Psolariis wasn’t afraid to switch things up for her performance, swapping out some of her more weathered tracks for some newly-released ones and changing the style of her set to match her current mood. “I used to call my genre fairy space trap, but today it will be a little more hype because that’s the mood I’m in.” 

Her first song, unfortunately, was suddenly cut short by the singer before she could complete the track due to issues with the instrumental. However, Psloariis was undeterred, continuing and gaining more confidence the longer she stayed under the stage lights, like a musical plant photosynthesising, slowly building up to full power. It was only a shame we couldn’t hear more tracks from the artist, her voice perfectly matching the incredible beats – many of which were produced by the singer herself.

Ashley Evans ( @_ev1997_)

Following Psloariis, without a gap to grasp onto the musky air that coated The George, saw the “rapper, producer and skater” JMPR, take to the stage to almost instantly change the feeling in the room. Gone was the sultry atmosphere so elegantly crafted by his predecessor; in came hard 808s, breakneck bars and a boundless backing vocalist Kai-Rim Fantastic. 

JMPR’s set was brief but impactful, instantly working with the crowd by performing an unreleased song titled “Run Run Run”. Despite the track only being created four days before its performance, JMPR and co’ had the crowd shouting the one-word chorus back at him before his set had even begun, something the artist endeavours to achieve with each of his performances. “I go for the energy in the moment. I want to inspire people to be positive.”

Ashley Evans (@_ev1997_)

As the evening continued, it was apparent that Joejas’ influence over the room was massive, with every artist on stage thus far shouting out the “hairy muffin man” (a handle the artist uses across all platforms). There is no more apparent influence from Joejas than in the penultimate act RetroPxssy, a singer-songwriter, and frequent collaborator with Joe, with the singer working with him to craft most of her beats. 

RetroPxssy is an interesting character. Find her at the bar, and you’ll be greeted by a polite, caring and somewhat shy individual. However, the second her feet touch the podium, a musical demon is released deep inside her. Something that lives in her psyche, waiting patiently for the opportunity to be released onto an unexpecting audience. 

RetroPxssy’s set began much like any other small artist: a smile, a wave, and a little dance. However, just minutes into the set, the Bristolian crawls around the stage, snarling and squatting like the girl emerging from the TV in “The Ring” or Regan MacNeil from “The Exorcist” spider walking down the stairs. 

Whilst initially shocking, a whiff of mysticism emitted from Retro’s performance, her entire being insatiably captivating, every movement and contortion more impressive than the last. “RetroPxssy, Raw, that shit’s raw and meaningful, sometimes chill, sometimes hard, you never know what you’re getting” – Joejas

Ashley Evans (@_ev1997_)

The most impressive thing about the young star is her way of juxtaposing her own performance. One minute you’ll be pleasantly horrified by her moves; the next, entranced by her mystifying vocals, her slower numbers pulling you in like a siren to a pirate at sea. 

“I love performing; that’s when I most feel alive. It’s when all the doubt from being an artist and putting your stuff out into the world [dissapears]”

The final act came in the form of the event organiser himself. Joejas, by this point, is a seasoned veteran at performing shows in London, with the artist, more often than not, found playing back street, bohemian-bar-music-venues dotted across the city. 

However, when Joe took to the stage at his most recent self-organised event, it felt like he was playing to a crowd full of eyes he had known his whole life. His set sparkled with showmanship, and somehow without using too much audience participation, Joe managed to make you feel as though you were part of the show.  “It’s just a community; there’s no weird vibes. It’s a day of showcasing how much talent there is, not some corporate event where a weird company have their balls in your mouths.”

It’s difficult to tell how much of the feeling he created was down to his performance alone or how much came from the aura he managed to craft with the entire evening. When his final song came through the speakers, and the rapper undressed in front of the crowd, swapping his shirt for a fake beard and a blonde wig, there wasn’t an audible judgemental snicker to be found (something that for many other artists would have been the understandable reaction.)

“I’m not going to put myself on a pedestal just because I’m the artist. I want everyone to be on a level playing field where we can talk to each other like humans; that’s how you build community; just treat people nicely.”

As the evening came to a close, the room was successfully at one with each other, a predicament unusual for an average gig but fitting for this event. Joejas’s meticulous planning had not only made an environment that spawned great performances but also bought a room full of strangers together and talking in a city famous for lacking emotional warmth 

The crowd slowly pitter-pattered their way out of the side door of The George Tavern, many hesitant to leave the new friends they had made along the way and all grateful for the experience Joe and Co’ had bought them. 

A Masterclass in Underground Event Organisation / 10 

Words by Mason Meyers

Posted On 2 December, 2022