Published Sep 27, 2011Now five years strong, the ever-expanding Manifesto juggernaut continues to captivate and unify enthusiasts, rumbling through Toronto's downtown core each September in a mesmerizing display of wide-ranging hip-hop artistry. Sunday's Main Event, the festival's climactic musical showcase, went off as smoothly as ever this year thanks to a more tightly run ship where set lengths were concerned, despite the unfortunate absence of one notable headliner.
Local artists KJ, the Get By and Notes to Self held it down in the fest's early goings-on, while style-conscious concertgoers and child-minding parents alike took in the enticing mixture of life-drawing sessions, clothing vendors, live graf work and hot eats that filled the square.
A short but inspired, soul-rich set from the ever-gracious Zaki Ibrahim, followed by an unscheduled set by a Blu-less Exile -- who maniacally hammered out a series of murderous rhythms on his MPC to much audience delight before calling "Rich Boy" (aka Rich Kidd) to the stage for some timely freestyle assistance -- provided a seamless transition into the evening hours.
A lyrically fit, pink-spandex-rocking Michie Mee came next, propelled to the stage by a slew of tough 808 rhythms before sliding back through the decades with her crowd-carrying renditions of heritage tune "Jamaican Funk" and "Don't Wanna Be Your Slave." Closing out the middle section were the slick posse cuts and conscious messages from the Freedom Writers, which, together with an impromptu guest visit from Wu legend Raekwon that blew open JD Era's already tight set, helped set the stage for the night's top billers.
First up was 9th Wonder, who took his place behind the decks before bringing out Phonte. 9th Wonder's fellow Little Brother alumnus quickly showed he hadn't lost a step on the mic, interspersing the LB and Foreign Exchange classics that dominated the majority of his routine with a couple of new joints and sucker-MC-defeating a cappellas for good measure.
9th remained onstage to keep the crowd occupied during the gap left by the absence of unlucky traveller Blu, and Rakim managed to reach the square only 20 minutes before the city's 11 p.m. curfew. Brought out by ultimate hype man Kid Capri, however, Rakim didn't disappoint, stalking the stage with a scowl apropos of his deific moniker as he delivered a rhymebook's worth of sacred hip-hop quotables in the compressed set.
With the few minutes grace period secured by the event, all of the artists mounted the stage one last time to tease a momentarily wide-eyed audience with the promise of something truly epic before the clock finally ran out on what was, for the most part, another successful final number in a week-long ode to hip-hop that keeps getting better with each passing year.