Kojey Radical Gave Brixton’s O2 Academy Many Reasons To Smile

Words: Kat Friar
Photography: Ruby LDN

After being pushed back from April to November, Kojey Radical’s Reason To Smile tour finally got to see the light of day earlier this week. A Mercury Prize-nominated project, Kojey brought his debut album to life at Brixton’s O2 Academy for an unforgettable, highly artistic night that came complete with support from UK singer-songwriter Rachel Chinouriri and LDN rap riser Sam Wise.

Rachel Chinouriri’s dreamy vocals tugged on the heartstrings of all those in the audience as her soul-laced indie sound washed over the building. As well as getting the crowd participating in her more upbeat tunes, she gave a striking speech about the importance of telling your loved ones that you love them. “Love has no currency,” she said with boldness, to which she received loud cheers. Sam Wise’s performance was a complete contrast, but it got the crowd amped up for the star of the night. He was running up and down the stage, often staring into the eyes of the people in the front row, as he performed his underground trap hits.

The band then took to the stage and built up suspense before Kojey emerged in a relaxed ‘fit—white suit and white boots, with white beads in his hair and gold in-ears to finish off the angel-like look. Kojey looked at the crowd in awe before air-strumming to the guitar on “Reason To Smile”—at this point, the energy in the room was electric. The rapper’s stage presence was full of bounce and bravado, rapping just as slick live as he does on wax, and he even took us back a few years by performing tracks like “Cashmere Tears”, “Sugar” and “Hours”.

The list of artists he brought out was abundant. Our first guest appearance of the night, Lex Amor, popped out for “War Outside”. Considering Lex sadly had to cancel her own tour earlier this year, she was in her element and lapped up every second of it—even if it was only for one song. Che Lingo stepped up for “Dark Days”, his smooth cadence gliding over the beat for the win. Cashh got the crowd hype for his verse on “Born”, too. Kojey’s close friend, Kwoli Black, also hit the stage and stayed for a number of tracks; as he left the stage, Kojey proclaimed that, one day, he too will perform as a headliner on the same stage—such is the power of friends believing in you. Moving on for a dose of self-care, Kojey proceeds to sit down, tells my friend that he likes her hat, and then discusses how he struggled with his mental health in a heartfelt speech about how “healing will never be a linear journey.”

The lights flash as the funk of “Can’t Go Back” picks up, complete with freestyle dancing to the electric guitar solo. It’s another glorious moment, of which there are many, and another reason to smile. Kojey then dedicates the next song, “Gangsta”, to his mother and the mother of his son, Rachel Ama. He waves to them from the stage as the crowd cheers, his two backing dancers riffing to the last chorus in a belting back and forth before harmonising in unison. Kojey leaves the stage for a moment before returning with Knucks for “Payback”. The crowd, as you can imagine, lost their proverbial minds as this collab has become something of a fan fave since its release.

After the show, I had reasons to smile and Kojey was all of them. The energy, production and wordplay that I adored on the album translated so well in the live arena. From the dance moves to the roster of talent he brought out, to the phenomenal background vocals to the jazzy horns and the speeches he made, he showed us all how a UK rap show is done! One word: sublime.


This article is in partnership with UD, a London-based music organisation bringing communities together around Black music and Black music culture. With over 20 years of experience in nurturing and supporting Black and culturally diverse artists when they need it most, UD acts as a bridge between burgeoning talent and the music industry. For more, head here.

Posted on November 17, 2022