After winning the Best New Festival Award in 2015, Wild Life was back at Brighton City Airport to now showcase and cement its date in the festival calendar as a major player. To do this, it would need to go one better, bring in something neoteric and exhilarating, whilst also landing some grand-musical heavyweights. They arrived in the form of grime's latest stars Stormzy and Skepta, American vets Ice Cube and Busta Rhymes, and pop artists Bastille.
It was the former N.W.A lyricist who had the crowd trembling at his figure tips though. Supported by no more than his son (not O'Shea Jackson who plays his father in Straight Outta Compton), Ice Cube was the penultimate act on Sunday's main stage and stole the show. The set of the weekend, despite co-curators Disclosure and Rudimental headlining the festival for successive years.
With both Stormzy and Skepta having tracks appear ubiquitously over all radio stations, this was their moment to shine, their moment under the spotlight. They appeared on the main stage Saturday and Sunday respectively and both seemed to revere their audience from the first moment, with Stormzy indicating it was the biggest and best crowd he had every performed at - it probably was for Skepta too.
For Skepta, he had arguably brought in the biggest crowd of the festival. The main stage was swarming, with people of all walks of life and ages proving the attraction of the artist and genre at this present moment in time. Though for as much as the buzz circled the congregation, something was missing. His short set of just 45 minutes seemed exactly that. Yes he went through the classics like 'That's Not Me', 'Shut Down' and his latest success 'Man', which naturally caused some small attempts at hip hop moshpits, however, the London artist struggled to hold the stage for the set and didn't seem as crisp over the microphone as one would hope. Though the set was an obvious huge success, there was room for improvement. Stopping 'Man' half way through and putting it back to the start several times was a definite crowd pleaser.
Sunday brought melancholic weather more suited to Wuthering Heights than Brighton, though, despite the gloom, the rain held all day. Stormzy was early on the main stage and with no surprise, brought a very large crowd. Whether it is because of the artist being in his ascendency, or just his style, the rapper brings far more energy to his set than Skepta and was an early treat for those who made the festival at this time. 'Shut Up' was a highlight.
Stormzy and Skepta needed to look no further in a masterclass-veteran performance from Ice Cube. Seemingly finding the joy in performing live again, Ice Cube slowly gathered a massive crowd to witness a show of nostalgic classics and California-style rapping. Dressed head to toe in black with his Ice Cube shirt on, Cube went through the obscene amount of colossal hits in his repertoire. With a back-drop-video montage putting together his greatest clips from music videos and films, everything from Friday to Ride Along, only added to the nostalgia being created in front of you. Crisp clear and on form, the 47 year-old personified a musician who beamed with clear happiness being back in the UK performing live. Even his crowd participation was overly indulged in by the Wild Life crowd, loving every word, singing to every tune. Naturally doing a medley of N.W.A verses, he also did some hits from Westside Connection and he could not of left Brighton without playing 'Bop Gun', 'The Ni**a Ya Love To Hate' 'Hello' 'Today Was A Good Day' and 'You Can Do It'.
Whilst Cube was a massive hit, Busta Ryhmes drew a similar crowd, but struggled to amplify his voice on the outside stage throughout, though everyone seemed to have enjoyed just having the rapper in their presence. The Bastille boys seem to be on fire at the moment, singer Dan Smith matched the energy of his audience, teasing the crowd with a taste of their new album 'Wild World'. They even performed a rendition of TLC's 'No Scrubs', a crowd pleaser.
On the electronic front, DJ's in both tents and the WHP stage stopped music very briefly to announced England has scored in the Euros, as Eats Everything, DJ EZ and Todd Terje were notable successes, with the latter proving a big hit.
For headliners Rudimental and Disclosure, they were naturally brilliant, and no one would expect anything less from the two groups who have now gone onto become industry big hitters with residencies in Ibiza. The lack of fresh music and variety to their sets made it a little stale. Comprehensibly the guys want to indicate to everyone this is their festival and anyone seeing them for the first time would have found them memorable and mesmerising, however, headlining the festival in two successive years seemed to suck some of the excitement out the headline slots, especially for anyone returning to Wild Life.
For 2017, Rudimental have already stated they will probably not be headlining the festival, and similar for Disclosure too. With sister-festival Parklife having Chemical Brothers headline in Manchester, one can only imagine the extra edge it might have given the festival. Thankfully for Wild Life, Ice Cube Stormzy and Skepta delivered in a huge way.
Official Site -