Ty Dolla $ign / Keita Juma / Nasty Nigel / ShaqIsDope The Opera House, Toronto ON, April 29
Published Apr 30, 2016Ty Dolla $ign made the most complete musical statement of his career thus far with last year's Free TC, a debut album that garnered the Los Angeles, California native praise as a multi-instrumentalist and arranger. Though a bit lengthy, it touched on everything from country, to gospel, to house music in addition to rap and R&B. And while he didn't cart the choirs and string sections to Toronto's Opera House to recreate the grandiose nature of his record in a live setting, his vocal talents made the evening worthwhile.
The bill featured support from three openers, two of which call Toronto home. Fresh off releasing his sophomore mixtape Black Frames earlier in the week, ShaqIsDope relied on backing tracks to overtake his own vocal performance in a handful of places, though his intricate delivery remained a highlight throughout.
Nasty Nigel stayed true to his Queens, New York roots in asking the monitor levels to be jacked through the roof for his own set. "I decided to fly in to Toronto a day early and got too fucked up," he admitted before dropping a series of heavy-hitting tracks that the crowd seemed hesitant to engage with, leading to Nigel and his DJ hopping into the crowd to spray some bottled water around and get everyone jumping themselves.
The audience was most receptive to the Bristol-bred, Toronto-based Keita Juma, who opened his technically sound set by spitting some smooth 16s over Jamie xx's "Gosh" before delivering his own blend of house and hip-hop. Without any backing tracks, his razor-sharp fixation on delivery was set free, and wasn't even broken by an audience member who kept taking the stage to bust out some seductive dance moves. Sporting a mile-wide grin the entire time, he got the audience to two-step and clap in time with his house-leaning beats, the energy reaching its peak with a balls-to-the-wall performance of "G R I L L $."
Then, after the 20th Century Fox theme trumpeted over the PA, truly turning the evening into an event, Ty Dolla $ign strode onstage in a baggy camo jacket and sunglasses while the backing track to "Familiar" rang out through the venue.
The set started with a few challenges; with the mic in one hand and a bottle of Bombay gin in the other (because it's all he ever drinks), his vocals were indistinguishable from those on the recording. It was a battle of levels that carried through the next few songs, with Ty only able to punch through to the forefront of the mix when shouting.
Taking a pause between songs to remove his jacket, he then asked the audience a pressing question: "Who wants to smoke some weed with Ty Dolla $ign?" With that, he produced a sizeable joint, lit it, and took a hit before passing it to the front row. Whether it was purely coincidence or the cannabis is anyone's guess, but that simple action changed both the pace of the set and the performance quality for the better.
With the levels fixed, "Irie" demonstrated Ty's impressive vocal control in shifting between singing and shouting, made more impressive by the fact that even as his most passionate, he never slipped out of key in the slightest. Capping things off in style, he grabbed a bass guitar from sidestage to treat the crowd to a slapped solo outro, surprising those who may not have known it was the first instrument he learned.
The set's middle portion was packed with short looks at his collaborative work with Wiz Khalifa, YG, Omarion, Major Lazer and Big Sean before lining up hits "Saved," "Or Nah" and "Paranoid." Ty stopped the latter short to tell the audience how crucial the song was early on in his career. "I was making songs at my grandma's house and Mama told me get a job and bring something to the table. Well, now I'm in Toronto doing just that," he proclaimed before shutting down the evening with the undeniable banger "Blasé."