K-Trap review – lyrical artistry and deft crowd control from drill pioneer

K-Trap, AKA 27-year-old drill pioneer Devonte Perkins, used to perform wearing a balaclava, which the rapper has explained wasn’t to avoid surveillance or look like a wrong’un, but a tool to let him develop his artistry without people knowing who he was. The decision paid off. Recent mixtape The Last Whip II landed in the Top 20, Stormzy is a fan and K-Trap’s releases have featured Giggs, Fredo and Skepta. All of which has left the Londoner somewhere between underground and mainstream: playing smaller venues, but selling them all out.

The rapper bounds on stage in Manchester after a DJ build up (“Everyone say K … Trap!”) and plainly never needed the mask for visual impact. In a white jacket, he’s charismatic and confident. “Manny, I love that energy,” he yells to the city. The teenage prisoner turned reformed rapper offers raw, unflinching detail about gangland with a bone-dry sense of humour. In Spoilt, he yells “When we got caught, we caught amnesia”, while Manners helpfully describes politely letting an old lady pass by when carrying a “tool”.

K-Trap is flanked by two security men, which seems theatrical – a budget version of Public Enemy’s Security of the First World – until there’s an incident in the crowd. One of them leaps off and a young man is carried from the venue in a headlock. The disturbance – and the rapper’s fruitless pleas for calm – seem to momentarily shake the artist, but he rescues the situation well (“we want good vibes here”) and the crowd remain behind him.

The music – a minimalist mix of drill and trap, key lines jabbed home by heavy bass – can get samey and he still needs more anthems to make a bigger breakthrough. Still, Molly Mae (performed with London rapper Youngs Teflon), Big Mood and Warm go down a storm and the audience know all the words. “Felt like it was all eyes on me against the world,” artist and crowd yell together: he shouldn’t feel like that any more.

• At Warehouse SWG3, Glasgow, 24 November. Then touring until 29 November.