Every now and then I find myself walking alone through dark London streets very late at night, thinking "what the hell am I doing here?" Not last night.
Not that I wasn't walking alone through deserted streets, quite the opposite. After a long journey, I walked for over half an hour through some estates and dimly lit streets I'd never wandered through before. At one point two lads came past, one holding a golf club. As you do, at 1am on a Sunday night/Monday morning.
No, what was different this time was: I didn't question what I was doing there.
There's been a few double-nightbus journeys back from Croydon when I've really asked that question, especially in bits of sarf I didn’t previously know existed. Once running through Maida Vale (more gangsta than its name suggests, in certain parts) at 2am I asked it repeatedly. Though it doesn't always happen, that at evening I quickly found the answer, after locating Loefah, Kode 9 and Digital Mystikz inside the Radio 1 John Peel tribute broadcast. I especially didn't ask it once I’d got a taxi home from Maida Vale studios, when my driver turned out to have fled Afghanistan during the Taliban.
"Everything you saw on television… " he'd said, " it was ten times worse living there." He described his exit route, being smuggled out through Pakistan. I wondered at the fusion that is London as blurred night lights passed in front of the windscreen and thought quiet, grateful thoughts about living in a country that allows women, children and men under 50 out after sundown.
But not once last night, even in the middle of sprawling London at 1am with work beckoning in seven hours, did I question what I was doing. The purpose, the buzz, the emotive raison d'être was completely self evident, coursing through my veins.
After years of listening to Rinse FM, of hearing the Roll Deep show, Dizzee, Wiley, Trim, Riko, Wonder, Target, D Double, Slimzee, Kode 9, Hatcha and Crazy D, Beezy, Youngsta, I'd finally been "inside." Equally special was that I'd been there to facilitate the visit of Mr Blissblogger to the mighty Rinse.
We cotched in the back of Tubby's Braindead show, as D Double spat solo, shadows bouncing off the walls. Then slowly Roll Deep began to trickle in. Maximum was first. Then came Trim, Skepta, Syre B and Carnage, full of news from the Sidewinder the night before. "I thought I was going to get shanked last night…" joked Trim to D Double during the ads. But more suprisingly he added "… that was the first time I'd thought that."
As the show began we slipped in the back. Trim did some warming. Skepta spat that lyric. Then Wiley stepped inside and the temperature rose.
By the time I found myself at 1am wandering the streets Roll Deep had long since headed off to their next gig. Simon had stayed for Ruff Sqwad. I was alone again. But not once did I ask myself "what the hell am I doing here?" I knew.