While his set was technically sound, with the crowd only slighting waning by the time he hit the stage late, he seemed to be largely going through the motions. Given the Kool Haus's history of hosting hip-hop legends and trailblazers, including A Tribe Called Quest, MF Doom, Nas, and Wu-Tang Clan, you couldn't help but wonder if there were better-qualified candidates (especially Toronto rappers) for the send-off.
Luckily for the audience, Fab's opening act Dej Loaf brought some much needed charisma and enthusiasm to the night, proving why she's one to watch with her first performance in Toronto. Running through a sampler of tracks from her well-received 2014 mixtape Sell Sole, thanks in part to the success of Billboard-charting anthem "Try Me" (quoted by Drake on his Instagram and remixed by everybody from Remy Ma to T.I. to Wiz Khalifa), the 23-year-old rapper's energy filled the airplane hangar-sized venue. Dressed in a military-style outfit and sporting her signature heart-shaped sunglasses, she made the most of her 20 minutes, showing her versatility as an MC with tracks ranging from romantic slow-burner "Me U & Hennessy" to the dexterous, tough-as-nails "Blood."
Saving "Try Me" and a flurry of cellphone videos for last, she invited half-a-dozen women onstage, fittingly appropriate for the messages of empowerment in her lyrics. Featuring a deceptively feathery beat from producer DDS, the song is Dej at her best, a half-sung, half-rapped declaration of independence and warning shot at her competition (particularly notable is the rapper's enunciation of the word "family" as "fomily"). The set ended with the rapper surrounded by a gaggle of autograph-seekers, her DJ teasing Dej's R&B-leaning "Easy Love," and a proclamation from the night's master of ceremonies that she'd be back to the city soon. Now that she's signed to Columbia Records, it's only a matter of time before she's headlining tours of her own.
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