O2 Academy, Oxford
1st November 2011
Hackney rapper Professor Green is at his career zenith today, with the current number one, a second album just out and a reality TV show now available on 4OD. There’s certainly a lot to latch onto – the singsong delivery, the humour, the cheekiness… charm discernible to people who don’t usually stray into his territory.
His earliest chart successes – Just Be Good to Green and I Need You Tonight – skip along at a jolly pace, with Pro bounding around and furiously polishing the air; and it’s all about him, his backing band efficiently rendering his chart-friendly guest stars unnecessary.
But the material from his new album is mostly an anticlimax. I shouldn’t feel as relieved as I do when he follows the hostile D.P.M.O. with the much more fun first album track Kids That Love To Dance.
His development as an artist probably needed this step into contemplative introspection – the Eminem-like rant on his number one, Read All About It, about his Dad’s suicide and criticism of his talking about it, seems excusably cathartic – and it’s probably a deft step to avoid sliding into parody, but the night is defined by this dichotomy. The new stuff is more like the earlier Jungle: more aggressive than playful; more lugubrious than energetic. Self-deprication has slipped into self-indulgence; stuff like Astronaut – about a rape victim turned drug addict – would have felt too serious on his first album. But the overall loss of the sparkle of songs like Monster is a shame.
Luckily, the wit hasn’t totally been abandonded: the new album’s title track, At Your Inconvenience, a critique of the music industry, has some bite, despite the lolloping backing. He even makes that Travie McCoy/Bruno Mars shipwreck of smugness Billionaire listenable. But while the new album might end up defining his legacy, it’s the old stuff that currently gives him the most credit.