Published May 30, 2012Canada's annual celebration of urban and club culture, the Stylus Awards, received a bit of a slimming down this year, stepping away from its usual home at Toronto's flashy Liberty Grand Entertainment Complex and choosing instead to take up residence in the newly renovated Danforth Music Hall. This slight scaling-back had no effect on the show's historically smooth production, however, and perennial show host Trixx was back in the driver's seat, keeping the generally well-paced presentation on the rails with his deep belly-chuckle-inducing comic relief.
Helping kick things off was a series of well-produced video cyphers (see below), which would return with various heat-dropping lineups throughout the night, with such notables as Rich Kidd, SonReal, Shi Wisdom and a baby-sporting Blake Carrington each blessing the mic. That initial video was closely followed by an animated performance by the Airplane Boys, who rode their backing band's boisterous bounce out into the crowd as their music video flickered across the stage's multiple screens in the background.
Things really picked up when Trixx finally enter the scene, who, taking cues from other award-show-conducting greats, immediately began snapping on everything and everyone who caught his eye. The Weeknd was promptly called out as the new depressing face of R&B (and one that should more aptly be calling himself "Monday"), the show's attendees were each given licks by area code, and the white people up front earned their lumps for being, well, the white people up front.
The ongoing comedy routine that would inevitably help to carry much of the night's proceedings continued on in a special edition of MTV's popular Jackass-style Silent Library competitions, featuring local DJs Starting from Scratch, Ritz (who bore the brunt of the abuse) and few other music industry mainstays. The unusually lengthy vids started out funny, but the laughs only lasted for as long as you could stomach frat-boy humour, which, dishearteningly, seemed to be the entire night for most in the venue.
Musical performances, most of which served as a showcase for artists up against the likes of Drake, the Weeknd and other global stars in their respective categories, ran hot and cold. Most performers, including singer Kreesha Turner and the aforementioned Airplane Boys, held their own given the circumstances. However, low marks go to A-Game, not for the poor audio mix that left everything but the cussing nearly indecipherable, but for not so much performing their songs as screaming them while flying around the stage flashing the finger to every camera pointed in their direction (in a show of rebellion against photography, you might presume).
For the most part, the night moved along at a decent clip, with top prizes handed out to Drake (Canadian Hip Hop Single), the Weeknd (Fan Choice Artist of the Year, R&B Single), Charlie Brown (Breakthrough DJ) and, among others, Tasha Rozez, who earned one of the night's biggest applause for her Top Female DJ win.
Honoured Hall of Fame inductee Michie Mee helped wind things down with a gracious acceptance speech following a praise-filled video introduction, after which she took to the stage for her own showcase of classics, a Jamaican flag waving proudly in the background by contemporary Lindo P. Of course, the show wouldn't be complete without Canuck hip-hop godfather Maestro Fresh Wes taking some time to drop a little history of his own, as the MC legend took the crowd on a memory-lane trip back to the birth of the term "T. Dot," and to his memories of fallen Beastie Boy MCA stage diving back in '84, in reference to a tribute earlier in the show.
As awards shows go, this year's event played as an entertaining lmoment of self-congratulations for a industry teeming with folks doing big things, in spite of the notable absence of some of the night's biggest winners and nominees. With its high production values and professionalism, joke-man Trixx at the helm, and, perhaps most importantly, no real drama, 2012 should go down as yet another successful year in the minds of organizers and attendees alike.
You can see the full list of winners here.