Ugly Duckling

Ugly Duckling


I love hip-hop shows. I wouldn’t say I go to many, and I don’t have much of a grasp on the current hip-hop scene (how old do I sound?), but whenever an old school hip-hop group is in town, I’ll try to make it to the show. One of my favourite hip-hop groups from way back when is Ugly Duckling, a trio of dudes from California who’ve got such a great sound, with some brilliant rhymes and wordplay. They regularly make the trip over from their home in sun-soaked Long Beach, California to the rain-drenched streets of Manchester, and over the past 6 or so years I’ve had the pleasure of catching them live a few times.

Tonight they’re back in Manchester, taking over The Deaf Institute for the evening. I’ve been looking forward to the gig all week, which is saying a lot considering And So I Watch You From Afar played the night before and a Mexican Morrissey tribute act will close out the week of gigs for me. Tough competition I’m sure you’ll agree, but Ugly Duckling always put on a hell of a live show, with such a fun atmosphere. The cherry on top is that my missus is coming too, and it’s going to be her first experience of Ugly Duckling!

Two DJs get the crowd fully prepped for the lads from Long Beach, with a little help from possibly the best hype man I’ve ever seen (bearing in mind, I think I’ve only ever seen one other – Roots Manuva’s hype man, and he was spectacular!) This larger than life geezer says probably less than fifty words during the 10 minutes of their set that I catch, mainly focusing on shouting “come on!” and “yeah!”, but what a fifty words they are.

Suitably hyped for the evening, a trade-off between the evening’s DJ’s takes place as Young Einstein, the man on the ones and two’s for the remainder of the evening, makes it out onto the rather small looking stage, thanks to the turntables set up. Einstein starts getting the atmosphere bubbling away and the crowd warmed up, and he’s soon joined by Andy Cooper and Dizzy Dustin who jump straight into a medley of hits from the vast Yudee catalogue. ‘I Did It Like This’ and ‘Smack’ are in amongst the first couple of tunes and the reaction from the crowd ensures the packed out room soon becomes akin to a sauna.

One of the first songs that got me hooked on Ugly Duckling was ‘Pick Up Lines’ from the Journey To Anywhere album. During their live sets, before they jump into said song, Andy and Dizzy grab a gal from the audience with the intention of wooing her, much to the amusement of those in attendance. Tonight’s no different, and the two MCs are particularly on form in their seduction techniques. Andy asks the young lady gracing the stage this evening if she’s a magician, as once she got up there with him “…everything else disappeared.” But that’s trumped by good old Dizz, looking out for the poor girl’s health as he asks her if she needs an inhaler before telling her she has “ass-ma!” OH! This type of shtick is what’s so great about Ugly Duckling shows. Aside from the tremendous songs, the flow between songs is so laid back but still on point, likely thanks to their length of time as friends. Crowd participation is encouraged throughout, with everybody in the room constantly bouncing up and down and shouting back the rhymes.


Ugly Duckling

Another trademark from Yudee shows is Young Einstein’s gold chain, in which Andy Cooper hypes up the backstory behind how the DJ got his fabled gold chain, whilst ‘Stein slowly rises from behind the decks with the chunky chain held aloft. Each member of the trio has their own themed songs, with Young Einstein getting his own tunes littered throughout the set in ‘Einstein Do It’ and ‘Eye on the Gold Chain.’ Here he gets the chance to really showcase his work on his vast vinyl collection, whilst the crowd chants ‘Go Einstein, Go Einstein, Go!’

A totally fun evening with a brilliant atmosphere soon reaches its climax as Ugly Duckling return to the stage following a brief exit for the encore. But this isn’t your typical encore, and Andy Cooper lets the crowd know that they don’t hold back songs throughout the set purely for encore purposes, and only come out if the need is there. I can 100 percent confirm the need was there, and the crowd is soon whipped into a frenzy as Yudee kick back into it, blasting through more of their back catalogue as the delighted people in attendance chant for “one more song”

It was great to see Ugly Duckling again and it’s good to see them mix it up and try something different each time they come back, whilst still holding onto their staples. I was also delighted to be with someone experiencing the Ugly Duckling live show for the first time. I’d been bigging up Ugly Duckling to my girlfriend all week, so it was great to see her enjoy the tunes and get fully involved in the live show. It was also a good opportunity for me to look the big lad in front of her, knowing all the words to the songs, so that’s another plus point!

If you missed out this time, it’s likely you’ll be able to catch them when they inevitably play the UK in 2016 (if not sooner). Their shows are unlike any other, and well worth checking out. White boy hip-hop at its finest. But if you’re still on the fence, hey – It’s just a little samba.

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Andy Hughes

Hi, I'm Andy.I'm the man behind Birthday Cake for Breakfast, a site featuring music news, reviews and interviews.Big believer in Birthday Cake, Pizza, math rock and beer (preferably all in one sitting.) I spend my mornings daydreaming about gigs and my evenings going to gigs. Lunch times are spent walking about town listening to Tom Waits.'Id rather have a bottle in front of me, than a frontal lobotomy'