If pressure creates diamonds, this showcase sparkled with the promise of greatness. Eight acts had been handpicked from a 16-strong MPX bootcamp of singers, emcees and poets. By the end of the evening, 5 artists would be granted the opportunity to perform alongside headliners on the KOKO stage, at Music Potential Unleashed. Everything was to play for. 

The IITS Band prepared to strike up the groove. The MPX backing vocalists – led by the awesome Kalisha J – were in position. It was time for singer/songwriter Habone to open proceedings. The self-professed ‘Bobmalian’ set the tone perfectly as she charmed the crowd with enchanting vocals and a playful tale of an ex who wasn’t ready to see the exit.

TS x MP Collage 1James Brown would have been proud of Jo-ash. The eccentric entertainer was clearly taking cues from the Godfather of Soul as he came out with a cape and a crusade to get the audience on the good foot. The small guy with the big vocals did not disappoint.

If the Friday heatwave had the audience in holiday mode, Alia Aurora provided the perfect soundtrack. ‘Keep On Moving’ transported listeners to the Caribbean with its reggae vibes, righteous message and Wailers-inspired BVs. The BRIT-schooled vocal powerhouse looked every inch the star as she gave a self-assured performance.

TS x MP Collage 2Vuluum came to share ‘Me Made’, a paean penned in the name of self-love. Sound issues left her heartfelt message struggling to find ears. As her performance drew to a close, host Fusion intervened. His request for an acapella reprise was answered immediately with an achingly fragile rendition that set the room ablaze. The thunderous applause that followed provided confirmation, on this occasion, for Vuluum, less was indeed more.

Keedz was clearly in no mood to take prisoners. ‘Bringing Grime Back’ was the mission; by the end she’d brought the whole of MPX with her too. As her comrades invaded the stage, the south London-lyricist continued shelling the crowd with relentless bars. True Skool became a melee of limbs as the whole place erupted. The only thing missing was Kanye and a few flame-throwers.

TS x MP Collage 3Even before he touched the mic, Aeo had the audience chanting his name. His song ‘Fight’ lived up to the hype. The emotional tour de force wound a smooth path through the verse, switched gears into the power-ballad chorus before reaching a crescendo with a drum’n’bass-infused finale. Throughout the performance, Aeo’s velvet vocal shone.

TS x MP Collage 5Out of the box verbalist Paradox opted for a more intimate energy for ‘Story’. His lament on inner city living was made all the more poignant by the gentle accompaniment of the IITS Band. Roach_TM on the other hand came to push the levels all the way up. As the band whipped up a frenzy with live trap vibes, he remained calm in the eye of the storm. By the second chorus hands were high and we all had our ‘Bands On The Low’. With grandmother, siblings and mamma Roach_TM in the wings, there was no way he could fail.

With so much action on stage, the instrumental selection from the MPX Production students provided a welcome change of pace. The 15-minute musical relay race showcased the expertise of each producer as the baton was passed along the line.

MP x TS alt collageMPX Birmingham participants were also in the house. Not only did they come down to cheer on the London crew, they went on to provide a masterclass in how to own an open mic. The 10 acts signed up to perform did their city proud. The impressive mix of hip hop, neo soul, trap and R&B talent on display hinted at the potential for their forthcoming hometown showcase.

TS x MP Collage 6If the emerging stars shone, it was, in no small part, a tribute to the hard work put in by their mentors. Music Potential Support vocal tutor and True Skool Open Mic champ Cartell was the first to show the levels. The HGC representer teased the crowd with a razor-sharp rap verse before raising the temperature with an R&B mash up that was the love child of Jhene Aiko and Usher.

Music Potential alumni and lyrical truthsayer Narko returned to the True Skool stage to wow the crowd with the wordplay, then, finally it was time for the Joi-Fuhl. The collaborative project brought Music Potential lead tutors from radio and performance for a floor-stomping, spirit-lifting house music finale. ShezAr slayed effortlessly over Funk Butcher’s energised production.

Mr Furious closed the night out with his infectious blend of connoisseur cuts and club bangers. Smiles, conversation and contacts were exchanged between Music Potential students and industry guests as the energy moved to the dancefloor. The mood was celebratory. Performers mingled with friends and family as the last few votes were cast. Needless to say, the vibe was turnt up until it was time to shut down.

Master of ceremonies Fusion and his team had presided over an amazing night of unleashed talent. Together, with the help of Music Potential’s radio stars, they shared the story of MPX 2016. Bubbly entertainment duo Guava & Coco had fun working the floor as roving reporters, Tyrannosaurus Dex confidently cohosted the first True Skool assembly, with surprise guests WSTRN, and David Echo tag teamed with Roxanne Benjamin to entertain us all with a fun Q&A with their tutors. Edutainment doesn’t get much better than that.

For more information about Capital XTRA’s Music Potential click here. Capital XTRA’s Music Potential Unleashed will be taking place on Aug 25th @ KOKO (invite only)

Big thank you to Rich Mix Youth Takeover


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