Fashawn / Exile / Choosey / EarthGang

The Drake Hotel, Toronto ON, March 13

Fashawn / Exile / Choosey / EarthGangThe Drake Hotel, Toronto ON, March 13
Photo: Shane Parent
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Maybe it was when Fashawn grew tired of the stage, leaped into the crowd for that "cypher vibe," a circle formed around him and he pinged around the Drake basement floor like an electron, spitting bars over an addictive Busta Rhymes sample.
 
Maybe it was when he accidentally butchered his shoutout to his DJ/producer, imploring the crowd to "Make some love for Exile!" — the bastard child of "Show some love…" and "Make some noise…" — and both artists keeled over laughing.
 
Or maybe it was when he happily hung around snapping selfies, shaking hands and signing autographs for his fans after an 85-minute set that left him sweaty and smiley.
 
But there was a moment on Friday the 13th in which those 75 or so folks who caught Fashawn's Toronto show must've felt like the luckiest people in the city. Or, at the very least, certain that their $10 cover charge was well spent.
 
"You could be anywhere in the world tonight," the "half-black, half-ese" emcee said, "but you're here with me."
 
Though the crowd was as small as a secret, the performance — from opener to finale — was gigantic and impassioned.

Full disclosure: Because standing through a bad rap performance can be almost as painful as sitting through bad local theatre, the veteran move is to arrive at the concert just after the opener and catch only the headliner. Rare is the occasion when the jaded music critic is blown away by the opening act, but that's exactly what happened Friday (March 13) with Atlanta's EarthGang.
 
The duo of Johnny Venus and Doctur Dot delivered 18 minutes of wow, even though they went onstage at the very sober time of 8:30 p.m. Handpicked by Fashawn to warm up the crowd, EarthGang's energy was so infectious, I rushed to download their new mixtape, Torba, the next morning. The duo bring a Pharcyde/Boogiemonsters vibe with a dash of Lil Jon, and it works. They also delivered the best concert adlib of the year: "Put yo free-health-care hands up!"

The whirlwind of EarthGang — seriously, don't be me; do not sleep on these guys — was followed by a nice set by Dirty Science's Choosey, whose performance bled right into Fashawn's.

Backed by Exile's live MPC virtuosity and loosened by a couple of pints, the Fresno, California, rapper bounded out to "Guess Who's Back," the opening cut from his just-release sophomore LP, The Ecology. Dressed in pristine white, low-cut Chucks, saggy blue jeans, a Stussy bucket hat and a baseball jersey atop grey hoodie, Fashawn exuded Cali skater casual but gave his all.
 
If he was disappointed the venue was only a third full, you'd never know it. Selections from 2009's excellent Boy Meets World — "Life as a Shorty," "Stars," "Samsonite Man," "Sunny CA" — and a few mixtape cuts (the Alchemist-produced "Po For President" shone) were peppered amongst a set list that included nearly every track from the new record. The paradoxical "F.T.W.," the sunny "Golden State of Mind," the dancehall-damaging "Confess" and the daughter-dedicated "Higher" all sounded crisp and were delivered expertly; no wonder Nas signed this dude to Mass Appeal Records.
 
"I'm feeling the vibe here tonight, T-Dot," Fashawn beamed midway, his sweatshirt long ditched in favour of a white tee. "I almost called it the Six, but I'm-a keep calling it the T-Dot if that's all right?"

Yeah, it's all right.


 
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