ILoveMakonnen The Hoxton, Toronto ON, January 14

ILoveMakonnen The Hoxton, Toronto ON, January 14
Photo: Kevin Jones
Photo: Kevin Jones
6
ILoveMakonnen appeared on stage in a bright red pattern poncho, his hood covering his face, singing "21st street," and within moments, The Hoxton floor was bouncing, as the young crowd jubilantly jumped up and down.

Though the Red Dragon's brisk, 45-minute set was obviously a crowd-pleaser, Makonnen confessed that he could have cancelled the show if it didn't sell out. What was a 19+ show has already been changed to an all-ages event to accommodate his fans. No matter the outcome, he said, how could he not show Toronto love?

The sound was far from perfect: Makonnen's voice sounded like it was peaking in the amplifiers, which were so loud that the quality suffered, but it didn't seem to matter much to the crowd, as those who knew the lyrics were following along closely regarding. When the Grammy-winning "Tuesday" came on, he let the crowd do most of the singing.

"Dodging 12" had the crowd singing and dabbing heavily, as every song Makonnen played garnered an aggressive, excited reaction. His set featured each one of his more celebrated hits, "I don't sell Molly no more," Father's "Nokia" remix and "No Ma'am" among them.

But while Makonnen's performance was enjoyable, one might be forgiven for expecting a little more creativity and spontaneity in his set, for an artist with a reputation for being unapologetically different from his hip-hop contemporaries. The songs were exactly as they are on record, meaning the show often came across more like an energetic listening party than a performance that would rise with anticipation and climax in response to the crowd.

Still, the crowd was into it, and rightly so: Confined to the small stage, the Southern rapper worked it, prancing around energetically. Though he's not one for much chatter, he did give the exhausted crowd a break to say a few inspiring words like "Keep on living," encouraging them to "make your dreams real."

While people paid to see Makonnen, they were also treated to Toronto's DJ Bevstmode, whose nearly two-hour set hyped the crowd with an expertly curated trap mix before Makonnen's arrival.