Published Sep 22, 2009For the past three years, the final Sunday of Toronto's Manifesto urban festival has served as a celebratory climax to a four-day study of all this city is contributing to local hip-hop culture, as well as an acknowledgement of those who have pioneered to make the city's current endeavours possible. Unlike in previous years, however, the 2009 incarnation of Manifesto's Main Event at Nathan Phillips Square turned to a couple of American heavyweights, Talib Kweli and DJ Hi-Tek, to lead the bill.
Now, that's not to say that the varied hometown participants were simply forgettable time fillers, as early appetizers such as James Jones, Sage and Art of Fresh made the best of their allotted face time. The problem, though, is that with an event format that tries to offer every current move-maker their moment to shine, it inevitably leaves artists with too little time to form an effective performance.
While stalwart soul-rock firebrand Saidah Baba Talibah, cocky youngster Jayvon and seasoned vet Solitaire were all able to make their mark, many found themselves shuffled off stage just as they were finding their rhythm. Sierra Leonean reggae/hip-hop amalgam Bajah + the Dry Eye Crew offered one of the night's welcomed surprises, as did local legend Saukratees, properly setting the stage for the long-awaited moment of reflection.
To the adoration of all those on hand, Kweli and Hi-Tek made their Reflection Eternal reunification official for the Toronto masses, dropping Train of Thought classics with a chemistry that simply erased the years of estrangement. Still as deadly as ever on the mic, the Bucktown MC scorched the crowd with a slew of hot verses both old and new, passing the rock to his DJ for much loved "The Blast" before snatching it back for ultimate closer "Get By."
With a few parting words from festival draws 9th Wonder and Jeru, Manifesto 2009 was cemented as yet another success, and even one that Toronto Mayor David Miller saw fit to acknowledge.