Published Sep 28, 2010Toronto's annual Manifesto festival - the final cultural showcase of the city's summer season and our country's premier celebration of all things hip-hop - went after the gold and platinum this year at its Dundas Square Main Event spectacle. With a consistent boom-bap thump echoing off the surrounding structures to catch any pedestrian within earshot, the new venue likely represented the largest stage many local artists and performers could hope to grace, and most came prepared.
Taken whole, the diverse lineup spoke to the genre's expansive stylistic landscape, a mix stretched to the boundaries by Masia One's decidedly dancehall-inspired set, or the sweet and classy retro soul of sultry Mz. Chawls. Conversely, Montreal's Nomadic Massive rattled the earth with their cross-cultural sonics and multi-linguistic verbal assault. Traditional beats and rhymes still held a majority stake in the day's events, however, as the audience-assisted beatbox session leading up to the night's headliners would remind us.
Of the closing performers, local luminary Rich Kidd was first to raise the torch, walking the stage like a champion and rewarding fans faithful enough to sing along with his guttural rhymes, despite some poor sound. With well-received collabos "So Much More" and "Soaring to Heaven," the Kidd passed the flame to local legend Saukrates, who returned to the Manifesto stage for his third year with an increasingly familiar trip down memory lane before finishing on high with K-os's "I Wish I Knew Natalie Portman."
But as the clock ticked down to the city's 11 p.m. curfew, the annual scramble to give the headliners their due again showed its face. New Orleans native Jay Electronica stepped to the stage cup in hand to deliver a stream of blistering lyrical head shots, cleverly dropping the beat out of each cut so that not a gasp was missed as his words were absorbed. Unfortunately, things began to unravel when Jay - already oblivious to the show's "no curse" rule - thought it necessary to ask female audience members about their tastes for violent sex, before climbing into the crowd and refusing to end his show.
Eventually, anxious organizers convinced the man he was cutting into supposed partner Black Thought's already comical set time, and the beloved Roots frontman was allowed to deliver what amounted to a satisfying snippet of his live mixtape. All high points aside, it was a regrettable climax to a largely successful week-long hip-hop love fest, and something that should at least spark the consideration of allowing fewer artists more breathing room at next year's showcase.