Aitch has Glaswegian fans in a chokehold as he embarks on his Close to Home tour.
On a miserable Thursday evening we made our way through the torrential rain to Glasgow’s O2 Academy to catch Manchester’s hottest young rapper play his first Scottish gig of the year. This was my first time experiencing Harrison Armstrong, better known as Aitch, perform live. I didn’t really know what to expect, and upon arriving at the packed-out venue, I’ll admit, I was a little apprehensive.
The sold-out event was crammed wall to wall with screaming young girls ready to watch their favourite rapper live in their home city. I am only 22 years old and I genuinely think I could have been the oldest person in the crowd. Aitch’s hypeman kicked off the evening with an assortment of lively tracks from an assortment of genres; from Oasis to Kanye, the young audience danced along to every track, giving it their all as though this was the headline act.
The atmosphere was electric from the onset; Aitch swaggered on stage, fashionably late, and after a quick greeting jumped straight into bass-heavy ‘Taste (Make It Shake)’. The sheer volume of iPhones blocking my view from the get go said pretty much everything I needed to know, I have been to a LOT of gigs and have never experienced that extent of hysteria before.
A quick glance at his discography reveals a consistent lyrical theme that most young rappers adhere to; tight verses with sexual innuendos about “making it shake”. Other songs such as ‘Raw’ and ‘Baby’ follow suit, however it is on his debut album Close to Home where he seems to delve into some tracks with more lyrical substance.
The title track ‘Close to Home’ offers candid insight into Aitch’s internal conflict between staying in Manchester or leaving to get bigger elsewhere, a clever subversion of the usual rap trope as Aitch admits he’s the one who has changed. ‘Belgrave Road’ was an immersive live experience as he explores anxieties and reflects on his roots with some powerful lyrics that demonstrate his song writing skill.
As the set continued the rappers appeal became clear to me. His story is a classic underdog tale of a wee working-class guy from North Manchester making it big. Aitch’s roots are at the centre of much of his music, ‘1989’ is an exceptionally catchy ode to Madchester as it samples The Stone Roses’ ‘Fools Gold’ with his verses giving a contemporary feel to an old classic.
Some of the artist’s strongest verses are on his features; his lyrics in fan favourite ‘Kiesha and Becky’ are impressively slick and catchy, perhaps one of his strongest verses. In the infectious D-Block Europe track ‘UFO’ the rappers flow is effortless, pulling the track together, and the AJ Tracey collab ‘Rain’ is a high energy statement that sees Aitch mark his territory.
Before we knew it, it was time for the encore. ‘My G’ was easily the most powerful moment of the set. It was written for his 13-year-old sister who has down’s syndrome, the track’s heart-warming lyrics show a rapper with a softer side. Aitch has recently become the ambassador of the Down’s Syndrome Association (DSA).
The whole evening Aitch has fans in a chokehold; old favourites and new numbers were effortlessly delivered with untapped energy. Charming and impressive, Aitch is a young artist on the verge of breaking into global superstardom.