Published Sep 04, 2009The old cliché "If you love something, set it free" seemed particularly apt on this night at the Paragon Theatre, when former Haligonian Josh Martinez returned to play a back-to-school set for family, friends and fans in the hip-hop community that bred him. Since his flight from Halifax, Martinez's career has flourished: he's travelled the world and produced great work since leaving the city. But the electricity in the air made it clear that there is still hometown love for one of the city's favourite native sons.
The night started off with Slam team member Hermitofthewoods, accompanied by vocalist Kayla Layes and DJ Y-Rush handling his beats. Hermit is considered a bit of a rising star and seeing him live, it all became clear: he's completely magnetic. While many of Halifax's more popular hip-hop exports have gone for a slightly cartoonish, party-rap vibe, the tall, lanky Hermit seems as if he's dropped straight off the Def Jux wagon - his words stutter out with rapid-fire intensity, ruminative and gritty, but never despairing. His set was capped with the acoustic guitar-driven, surprisingly feel-good number "Rabbit in the Cabbage," leaving you wondering when this guy is going to break already.
After a peppy but bland set from Something Good, Martinez took the stage. The rapper now resides in Portland, OR, and was clearly chomping at the bit to perform for a Halifax crowd; he was a fount of endless energy, bouncing up and down, popping and locking, with his famed raspy machine-gun patter and diverse vocal acrobatics remaining front and centre.
He dropped crowd favourites like "Fight or Fuck" and "Another Day," interspersed a few sweet doo-wop ditties, and performed the entirety of "Cheers" with a beer bottle balanced on his head - "This is just a dumb thing I do," he said apologetically as the crowd roared. A full-throated karaoke rendition of "Eye of the Tiger" then led into his most recent single "Goin' Back to Hali." Martinez's love for his old city was reflected back: clearly this weird, wild bird can always return home forgiven for his flight, fluttering into open arms.