Live: Out the Citi Field Ballpark. El-P, Scala.

Hot and heady rap shows are fairly hard to come by nowadays, thus when one rolls into town it's imperative one hips swiftly to hop aboard. When the one and only Jaime Meline touches down in London town to strut his stuff with an imperviously cocksure additude therefore, best listen up and cram in for the crush.

Once Def Jux label mate Despot is up first and, despite looking a little like a sophomore from the nearby Central Saint Martins unwittingly caught up in a Killa Queens flow, he delivers some brilliantly gritty, bass-hefty tracks concerning "not being dead", "how rich and cool I am", and so on. His brattish NYC vox fill Courtney Constantine's onetime north London cinema with both hazard and humour, as an openly accessible vitriol rolls from the tip of his writhing tongue. Equivalently exoteric to that produced by those at which his acute jibes are aimed, his forthcoming Ratatat collab record shall by the sounds of it be one to lose copious amounts of shit to: the beats courtesy of Mike Stroud and Evan Mast what underly the borderline demented House Of Bricks better anything, and indeed the entirety of, the duo's Ratatat Remixes Vol. 1 as they hammer home Despot's barbed snarls like leather-coated cork smacked right outta the Citi Field ballpark. That he administers some intoxicating humour only raises his game, as out alone (or at least only accompanied by his inanimate sampler, "Bobby Brit Calvin") he ensnares the observations of all. Never is this more so than during some between-song aerobics as Meline and his band abandon backstage comforts to swagger out and show off some sweat-coaxing manoeuvres to a pacy instrumental number. Breathless.

From bass-hefty support to a ginuwine hip hop heavyweight, from the moment the night's first dry ice efflux diffuses about overhead, consider us captivated. Phil Collins' most bearable composition blares out over the PA, and there's a quite tangible ominousness in the air tonight; an alluring uncertainty as to how the show may unravel. Surfacing from a fogged mist of vivid white to that eruption of rhythm the humour remains, and never stagnates as anticipation peaks. Meline arises to expectation absolutely instantaneously, as the bastardised Smack My Bitch Up clashes of Request Denied holler sonorously about these four walls. "I really shouldda peed", he impertinently intones, hopping either out of desperation or delight. The place is packed and there's now a juicy, primordial feel throughout the Scala – excitement's rife.

El-P has traced a quite intriguing career trajectory. From the very much traditional tones of Company Flow through to the eldritch surrealities and trance-y propensities of his solo work, it feels very much a case of A to B. Yet to hop on over to C, were his creative path mapped out as cosmic asterism it'd be but a straight line, and a rather compact one at that. However, at certain coordinates within latest LP Cancer4Cure Meline would go where three certain men had gone before, and revert to a more straight-up styling – as with the scratchy wiggle of The Full Retard. Marking the point at which tonight truly lifts off, it also indicates the aim of the eve: to recite his most recent in full. It's a brazen, arguably brash and, as he himself concedes, a little arrogant an endeavour usually reserved for they that play a night or two round the Barbican Centre, yet it's here thoroughly impactive. It adds some predictability, yet in Works Every Time arises an erraticism triggered by Meline's full-frontal approach: upheld by the front few, he preaches right up in the faces of they that esteem him so whilst Paul Banks' neutral choral drones seep from sound desk. Never did the rap idiom 'spit' ever carry so much weight behind it. Yet more unpredictable still is that the Scala actually works as a venue, just about containing the all-pervasive hysteria as beers soar and crowds get surfed. An eventuality far rarer than the witnessing of an even half-decent rap show, it's a darn astute booking.

As with anything to fall under the banner of hip hop there are a couple dank undertones to the El-P show: Works Every Time goes out "to all you poor bastards at 5 a.m. still without a text from your favourite drug dealer", prompting Meline to condone the doing of anything from behind a look of wry disenchantment and, similarly, despite only fessing up to a drop or two of alcohol he demonstrates a disinterest in the individual by avowing: "You can destroy your lives." Invaded by lyrics of "martian attacks", True Story is one of many instances of apocalyptic hip hop where Meline has devised the apposite soundtrack for destruction and subsequent demise, although you struggle to fully buy into such nonchalance. His concerted questioning as to whether our enjoyment levels are continuing to spiral uncontrollably, and gushes of gratitude ("It feels goddamn good to be out here again") are nothing if not convincing.

Moreover they imbue the evening with an infectious vivacity oft lacking in rap. This is undoubtedly due in part to the merits of live instrumentation (he and his "backup" man are flanked by keys and guitar which bring oodles of both organicity and entertainment to the show), but it's predominantly down to Meline and the tracks he strives to conjure. Played out from the precipice of the stage, a florid baseball cap perched casually atop his only even barely visible body part those extraterrestrial themes aforementioned come forth on the old school rollick of Drones Over Bklyn, as we're exhorted to lift our skinny fingers skywards like antennas to Heaven. Or whatever else may be out there. Intergalactic, planetary synths power The Jig Is Up as the first puff of doob – a hallmark of the quintessential hip hop do – perfumes the already airless atmosphere; For My Upstairs Neighbor (Mums the Word) induces the most unorthodox of singsongs; Stay Down unfurls Meline's most widescreen chorus to date. Bondian in scope, Nick Diamonds' impassioned vocal relays somehow recall Bassey through the fug and thick bass as cigarettes in hand, arms are raised aloft in honour of loved ones lost. "If you love being alive say fuck yeah!" he caws to again unveil an unprecedentedly ardent feel beyond the bravado. There is indeed plenty of feeling aflame within El Producto, and it's thus something of a shame that his Comedy Central sense of humour can at times be employed to whitewash over this affecting empathy.

"You fuckin' ginger cunt!" he repeatedly brands a coy Despot, as his main support comes in to re-channel the feel of Company Flow on a devastating Tougher Colder Killer. Thus when not gushing nor flushing emotion from his body, between-song "banter" assumes a skit-like impact with witticisms of side careers in elevators etc. segued by comedic drum pad rolls. The impudence then intensifies though, as an insightful opinion of the sound being too reliant on the low end (the heckler has a point, as many a lyric is rendered, in a word, incomprehensible) is booed down. #Bassgate results, the Scala's almost annular layout acquiring a gladiatorial feel as thumbs are upturned with Meline inheriting the role of emperor. His verdict? "More bass."

Jocularity predominates the closing exchanges: his guitarist and indeed keytarist crowd surf whilst soloing to $ Vic/FTL (Me And You) in the night's most goddamn rad sight, whilst an encore dedicated to ye olde output (EMG, Poisenville Kids No Wins/Reprise (This Must Be Our Time) and Deep Space 9MM, as well as an excerpt of A Tribe Called Quest's Can I Kick It?) has forearms a-flailin' and Neanderthal caveman motions a-thumpin'. It's a rigorous anaerobic workout, all air now having been displaced by a harsh smoke to eventually exhaust.

Extraneous postscriptum remarks perhaps, although it ought to be reiterated that to stage a live show as highly functional as this in a venue to be deemed barely passable is no mean feat. Furthermore, it's enlightening to experience firsthand a rather seismic shift in audience since Company Flow started out in '93: Meline may send peace out to "the posh life" and they that inhabit council estates alike, yet his is a remarkably white, and more pertinently exclusively middle-class clientele. The times they have a-changed. At any rate, demographic homogenisation aside, despite purporting to be "the nastiest cunt since birth" and intimating that we "pay no attention to the man behind the glassy smirk" said man is anything but. And despite his sporadic facetiousness, his somewhat self-effacing confessionals concealed within woozy raps tell more of El Producto than his outbursts of droll flippancy ever could.