I arrived at the Happy Yess to find the courtyard flanked by an inflatable, lit-up Leaning Tower of Pisa and Trevi Fountain (set up for the Italian Festival, not by Clifton, although it wouldn’t surprise me if he had gone to those lengths). It helped set the scene for the Wonderland-esque title of Nicholas Clifton’s debut mixtape.
It was a small but super passionate crowd. Everywhere you looked were people decked out in ‘Clifton’ merch which was a testament to Clifton’s incessant drive to put himself out there.
Devine MC x Tor kicked off proceedings. Devine MC (Liam Devine) and drummer Tor Trethowan are well known in the Northern Territory music scene as one half of renowned hip hop act DT3. DT3 hasn’t performed together since the 2nd of January 2015 when they played a tribute show dedicated to their best friend/DJ Mitchell “RFaktr” Russell who was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident in December 2014. The group are reuniting for one last show on June 16th at the Darwin Supercars – a show not to be missed. This show was clearly a warm-up for the duo but they showed that even after all these years, they don’t miss a beat.
Devine MC commanded attention, even with the small crowd. They performed a set of DT3 hits, including the JJJ Unearthed no. 1 song ‘One Day’ (feat. Illy), as well as a few of his solo tracks. Anyone who has seen Tor Trethowan drum knows that the energy he brings is mesmerising to watch. He keeps things on stage exciting from start to finish. It was awesome to watch the two work together and also lovely to see how gracious and genuinely encouraging Devine was towards the up and coming Clifton.
Clifton took to the stage with a DJ that he had only hired a few days prior. This didn’t faze him as he clearly knows his backing tracks inside out. The slick production on his tracks sounded fantastic ringing out through the venue. It was fantastic to see his supporters (including his whole family) front row and centre in a sea of ‘Clifton’ shirts. The night culminated with Devine MC x Tor joining Clifton on stage for a new song that they had crafted just that week. It was special to see Clifton on stage with someone he looked up to so much and had helped carve the path in the scene for his own hip hop career.
What Clifton lacks in performance experience he makes up for in passion and genuine talent at spitting. Complex rhymes, fast-flow and clever lyrics. It was definitely not a sunshine-and-rainbows kind of wonderland adventure – the content is dark and the passion that drives it comes from a dark place. In Clifton’s own words, this is his older material that he wanted to get out into the world to pave the way for his new stuff. And I’m so keen to see where the road at the bottom of the rabbit hole leads for this very talented up-and-comer.
Check out my photos of the event in the gallery below.
Also see this review of ‘The Rabbit Hole’ mixtape by our Steve Kelk: http://foldback.com.au/top-stories/take-a-trip-down-the-rabbit-hole-with-emcee-clifton/