What better way to conclude the successful Electric Dreams Online Festival than an intimate gig by one of Britain’s most talented rising stars? For 80 minutes, through YouTube, trap artist Halvcast performs a selection of his most political songs that rage against injustice and racism. In quieter tracks he collaborates with fellow artists and these songs seemed seeped in sorrow. With a VR Trap Opera around the corner Halvcast may soon become a household name.
Wearing his trademark golden monkey mask, Halvcast explains the dilemma that runs through many of his songs. As the child of a white Englishman and a black freedom fighter from Namibia, he feels that he is half oppressor and half the oppressed, a position, he believes, impels him to find some common ground for both sides of his heritage. Perhaps the mask is meant to underline his marginal status.
However, in his song, his debut single from last year No Slave, he raps that he’s black inside his head and that he’ll be black until he’s dead. He worries that the Black Lives Matter protests will lose momentum, and many of his tracks are protests in themselves: Run, Be The Change and Politician all call for a fairer society.
Later he’s joined by Forte, who plays a mournful trumpet to No Way Out, and Georg’ Estelle sings the main part to one of the last songs, her jazzy voice blending well with Halvcast’s slow rap. He also allows us a snippet of his new project, Munkination, a VR Trap Opera made with the help of the Royal Opera House. With the human voices complementing the beat, there are echoes of Philip Glass’s Koyaanisqatsi, and there is something very filmic about this fusion of opera and trap.
For a festival that included many interactive shows which pushed video conferencing platforms into surprising directions, it is a little disappointing to be only a passive observer to Halvcast’s concert. Some of the 40 or so audience members watching on YouTube chatted in the live comments section, but this online gig lacked an urgency that would easily be found in a small music venue. But until these open again, we must be thankful for such online riches.
Reviewed on 16 August 2020