To say the least, Thursday night did not turn out how we expected it.
Tonight had been in the works for the past two weeks. By digging around either on Facebook on TimeOut, I stumbled upon Hip-Hop Karaoke at a bar called Queen of Hoxton.
It was in the Shoreditch area, which I heard was lit. I perused the song list, doing research on my own memory and rapping capabilities. I made a shortlist, found my song and actually practiced it.
When I got home from class, I took a disco nap, beat my face and met Tofunmi at the station. According to plan, we got off at Liverpool Street and walked over to the bar. As we were stepping up to the door, the bouncer angled his body in front of us.
Looking up at him, I said, “We’re here for Hip Hop Karaoke.”
My brow knit together and insisted I had read it was every Thursday.
And then, the bouncer uttered those fateful, soul-crushing words no Londoner bent on a turn-up ever wants to hear, “Sorry, this bar is closed for a private event.”
Grumpy and defeated, I turned to Tofunmi. What was our back-up plan? We checked out a restaurant called Camino across the street, but the prices weren’t tickling our fancy. We came to a pub that promised mouthwatering falafel burgers and fish finger sandwiches. Again, as we were walking to the door, a bouncer shifted in front of us.
We got ID’ed. To get into a pub. And for what? There weren’t any seats. After stepping outside and flicking around Yelp, we kept walking. We came up to another bar, which also closed for another private event. The bouncer there clued us in: all the companies in the area were renting spaces out for their Christmas parties. There was only going to be one or two that were open to the public, these nights.
I was quite ravenous and also looking for food. Tofunmi told him as much. He recommended the diner, up ahead on the right. A diner? In Shoreditch? We thanked him.
Either way, I was committed as soon as I saw the frosted window boasting burgers and shakes. But a neon glow caught my eye. I suggested we go check it out. Not before we cured Tofunmi’s boba tea craving, of course.
As we were taking pictures, a security guard chatted us up about the place. We said we’d think about it.
As we walked back toward the diner, Tofunmi grabbed one of the little flyers from a promoter. Oh! It was for Cargo. And tonight, they’d be playing throwbacks and hip-hop. We were definitely in.
Turns out, the diner was actually “The Diner.”
Although we were tempted by the all-day breakfast menu, Tofunmi and I both got burgers: hers, classic with no onion and mine, veggie with no onion. But definitely onion rings on the side, no hesitation.
Honestly? In this town, where people thrive off of portobello mushrooms and halloumi, where Nando’s reigns supreme as mass veggie burger distributor, this one from The Diner was pretty darn delicious. The Swiss cheese, the brioche bun and the special burger sauce didn’t hurt one bit!
Also, the sauce I ordered wasn’t the runny stuff that U.K. restaurants tends to pass off as barbecue. It was thick enough and a smidge spicy. I absolutely adored it.
We ate and chatted for awhile before saying our goodbyes to The Diner.
Then we went to Cargo. The entry fee was £10 and we took it. The cloakroom fee was £3 and we passed.
Thursday night at Cargo was exactly what it read on the tin: Sean Paul and Sean Kingston, “Starships” and “Replay,” Jason Derulo and “Run This Town” and “Rude Boy,” Missy Elliott, Dr. Dre and endless 50 Cent.
I know that the U.S. is fantastic when it comes to cultural imperialism, but how do all of you guys know the words to “P.I.M.P.” and “Low?”
You know, I never thought I’d spend a night watching white British folks in their thirties, in slacks and blazers and sheathe dresses, trying to get it to “Crank Dat” by Soulja Boy for the first time.
Of course, a dash of modern bops, like Kendrick Lamar records and “Despacito,” didn’t hurt morale. I didn’t realize how much of a Drake stan I am compared to the average hip-hop fan. Aubrey Graham is all it took for me to come alive.
Having taken a black British music class, it didn’t go unnoticed that the DJ only played one or two grime songs. One of this selection was literally a meme. There was something about the glee of the crowd that suggested it wasn’t about Roadman Shaq’s lyrical prowess.
Blessedly, Tofunmi and I made the last Tube home on the Hammersmith + City line.
We were a bit mixed up on the way back to Liverpool Street, but a kind man in three-piece suit and feathered bowler hat pointed us in the right direction. It’s where he was headed.
And for his lilting Northern accent and pocket-watch he kept by his chest, you would have never known this English gentlemen took a guilty pleasure in Worldstar Hip-Hop. Yes! This man who looked like your wildest vintage dreams (or like he had a BBC period drama fitting at 6 pm and a The Sartorialist photo to snap at 7pm) liked to watch videos on Worldstar.
Clearly, we were living in an alternate reality. But what a pleasant dream. Thursday had not panned out as anticipated, but you know, sometimes, that’s perfectly OK.