Before this past week I hadn’t heard of Jazz Cartier, but the past two years I have done a Polaris Prize feature and this year Jazz Cartier is a long list nominee. For those who don’t know the Polaris Prize celebrates the best Canadian albums regardless of genres or sales. The last few years Tanya Tagaq, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Fiest and Arcade Fire have won the prize. I figured since Jazz Cartier not only is long listed, but actually stands a decent shot of being one of the ten finalists I should see what all the buzz is about. For anyone who thinks Drake is too soft or doesn’t actually represent Toronto, you have found your new icon in JC.
The very young man came out on stage with his energy level already at an 11. He has performed the night before and apologized for having a hoarse voice, but promised to leave the stage with his vocal chords being annihilated. He sprayed water bottles on the crowd and ran back and forth like a wild animal. He mixed his gang banging lyrics with commentary on socio-political current events and even added some sensitive love songs for the ladies in the crowd. He had a projector running which played scenes from movies like The Shining and Blade Runner movies most people in the crowd probably had never seen let alone heard of. Also shown were clips from his videos of him performing in landmark Toronto areas and mixing in the occasional ‘video hoe’. Most interestingly he showed clips of the Toronto G20 riots from a few years ago, a scene this writer actually filmed first hand while assisting a photographer, so the clips were extra poignant for me.
At one point a phone ringing sounded over the speakers, Jazz took his phone out and ‘took a call’ from a disgruntled fan that wanted him to go harder or he would demand his money back. So naturally he tapped into an unused energy reservoir and went harder. HE asked the crowd who was from the West End, the East End, Uptown and Downtown to varying levels of applause (something Drake would never dare to try) before launching into The Downtown Cliché which featuring a stuttering drum roll trap beat. Another highlight of the set was the song New Religion showing off Jazz Cartier’s versatility. Near the end of the set he brought out all the people standing on the wings, including a few other local rappers to perform the posse track which included many stage divers much to the crowd’s delight. If you haven’t listened to Marauding in Paradise (it’s free on his Soundcloud), do it because you will be the only person in Toronto who won’t know his name in a year’s time.