Bouncing back with a booty-shaking bang after two years in Covid limbo, the moveable feast that is Zapp presents Wireless Festival felt tailor-made for its new South London home in buzzy, multicultural Crystal Palace.
This three-day carnival of hip-hop, grime, drill and R&B was not quite as starry or as diverse as some previous Finsbury Park events, but it did feature a surprise guest appearance by Drake during US rapper Future’s Friday night headline set. “I did not want my first show back to be anywhere else but Wireless festival,” the khaki-clad Canadian rap superstar told the screaming crowd. Shamelessly insincere flattery? Works every time.
Despite lingering Covid anxieties, the Wireless team delivered a festival that felt roomy, airy and safe. Pre-arrival infection checks were stringent but efficiently handled, while the site itself was spacious enough to allow for ample social distancing. Straddling the landscaped terraces at the north end of Crystal Palace Park, this new location is well suited to music events, with excellent sightlines to the main stage and beyond, stretching off into Kent and Sussex.
Less impressively, the bill was far too testosterone-heavy, with only four women listed among almost 50 artists. The weekend’s most glaring omission was Islington’s own Little Simz, who is currently riding high with her latest Top 5 album – indeed, she filmed the video for her Introvert single in Crystal Palace Park itself. Even if Simz was unavailable, rising grime stars like Flohio, Lioness, Ms Banks and many more might have helped level this lopsided playing field a little. Fortunately, Megan Thee Stallion made the most of her Wireless slot with an explosively energetic, turbo-twerking, bootylicious banquet of raunchy rap bangers, including her hilariously explicit Cardi B duet WAP, both a celebration and a subversive feminist parody of gangsta rap’s hypersexualised porn-star aesthetic. The 26-year-old Texan earned a notably warm reception from the women in the audience. Bring on the dancing horses.
The headline stars at Wireless all delivered visually dazzling, stadium-ready shows. Tottenham grime lord and bona fide Nigerian tribal chief Skepta brought typically cool-headed confidence to his first live outing in two years, making superb use of the festival’s huge high-resolution video screens and some blazing on-stage pyrotechnics. More than just a post-Covid comeback show, this was a skeptacular.
Sharing the stage with a giant spider, Atlanta rapper Young Thug brought a welcome dash of arty glamour with his brightly coloured outfits, luscious R&B melodies and signature slurred vocals. His fellow Georgia natives Migos closed Sunday night with a super-slick set, performing their intertwined triple-layer raps beneath stunning widescreen vistas of tropical islands, snowy forests and futuristic cityscapes. This was a glossy, Hollywood-sized production. But for sheer charisma, humour and showmanship, Megan Thee Stallion won Wireless hands down.