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Skepta spits dizzying bars and summons joyous mosh pits at ACL Fest

Bryan Rolli

Twenty minutes into his Friday afternoon set on the Homeaway Stage at Austin City Limits, Skepta made a deal with his audience.

“Can I spit some lyrics, please?” he asked the crowd before barreling into “Skepta Interlude,” which first appeared on Drake’s album-playlist hybrid “More Life” back in March. “Let’s get f—king lyrical.”

It was a strange request, as the rapper had been getting lyrical all along. The 35-year-old British MC — real name Joseph Junior Adenuga — couched his dense statements inside pummeling grime bangers that kept droves of fans moving for the entirety of his hourlong performance. Skepta knew his late-afternoon set was not the time for introspection. This audience wanted bars.

So that’s what he delivered. The MC emanated braggadocio as he bounded across the stage and spat dizzying boasts off “Hypocrisy”: “I’ve got fifteen different iPhones / But I am so not phony / They try to disrespect me / when they’re online especially / But everything cool when they check me.”

Everything is definitely cool with Skepta after last year’s “Konnichiwa” landed him on several year-end lists, and nobody was trying to check him during this set. The rapper’s motor-mouthed delivery and thick accent prevented most of the audience from rapping along with his furious tongue-twisters, but boy, did they dance. Shirtless bros and and hipster girls two-stepped ebulliently, their life forces replenished by rumbling bass drops as the sun tucked mercifully behind the stage.

“The energy is correct for the titles you’re screaming right now,” he told the audience before playing breakout single “Shutdown,” which currently has more than 44 million Spotify streams. “Front to the back, left to the right: pits,” he demanded.

As with many things in his triumphant past year, Skepta got exactly what he wanted.