The rain was coming down intermittently all day and the sky was grey as can be. Constantly checking Twitter to see if there was a status update from Manifesto about the possibility of cancelling the show. Thankfully just as opening act Daniel Caesar came out the rain stopped and the clouds started to dissipate. Caesar is a local boy from Toronto getting the chance to open a pretty big show and make some new fans. The hardcore fans of the headliner arrived early and were pressed against the railing, and when hosts Wan Luv and Femi Lawson were introducing Caesar they gleefully cheered along. Caesar came out in a hunter green stylish jump suit and picked up a black guitar before blowing us away with his powerful vocals. His minimalist guitar strumming to slow building RnB backing music sounded like if Rhye made 90’s RnB. The music was sensual and easy on the ear, every time Caesar hit a sustained high note the crowd cheered at him. His music makes the perfect soundtrack to be played in the bedroom something he alluded to as much when describing the inspiration for most of his songs being women in his life. He premiered a new song with another local talent River Tiber who also makes minimalist music of the electronic variety. With acts like Jazz Cartier, Tory Lanez and dvsn making waves on the international stage coming out of Toronto, it is no wonder that more people are paying attention to the Hip-Hop and RnB coming out of our cultural hotbed of a city.
In between sets local DJ’s played allowing technicians to set up without the crowd getting restless. The hosts would come out and thank the sponsors (Canna Clinic got the biggest cheers every time they were mentioned) and they would throw out Manifesto shirts to keep the crowd hyped up. There seemed to be some issue with Kaytranada starting on time, so Elaquent, the intermission DJ, came back out and played some more and Femi Lawson recited some spoken word poetry about his life and how he came from Nigeria to live in the best city in the world (Toronto obviously) that the crowd was definitely feeling. Montreal’s Kaytranada eventually continued the party as he played almost the entirety of his latest album 99.9% as the crowd got exponentially bigger since the first act played. 99.9% presents the Canadian Hip-Hip and Electronic community as a work of art seeing as it is nominated for this year’s Polaris Music Prize (Editor’s note: he won!). This represented the last time a nominated act will be playing in Toronto before the big ceremony on September 19th. Kaytranada stopped his music to ask the crowd why they weren’t dancing before he jumped in to groovy remixes of Missy Elliot, Michael Jackson and playing some brand new Alicia Keys music. Highlights from his excellent new album that were played included the AlunaGeorge and GoldLink assisted TOGETHER, the Craig David collaboration GOT IT GOOD and by the time ONE TOO MANY featuring Phonte was played, the crowd was visibly jumping up and down and dancing like the sandy beach was a club floor. Kaytranada gave a shout out to River Tiber, just like Daniel Caesar did as he played their track VIVID DREAMS, once against showing off how rich our urban music landscape is at the moment, one that is worth celebrating like Manifesto is doing. By the time his set was nearing the end he played the stand out track GLOWED UP, which of course features the headliner of the night and to everyone’s surprise Anderson .Paak came out and performed it, running back and forth along the stage as the crowd went crazy in adulation.
Anderson .Paak has played in Toronto three times this year now. His first trip to our city was opening for Bryson Tiller at Echo Beach in June, then in July he headlined his own show at the Phoenix and now he is back headlining Echo Beach with thousands of people coming just to see him. He first caught the world’s attention being the go to guest vocalist on Dr. Dre’s Compton album, appearing on six tracks, the most of any artist in the guest laden comeback album. With the release of this year’s Malibu, .Paak got the acclaim he rightfully deserved and little by little crowds have been flocking to his shows making him get bigger every time he rolls through a city again. Right from the start of the set it was impossible not to be blown away by the level of energy .Paak has, running around, jumping, dancing and more all while not losing his breath. There is a story of how Outkast was transformed into a good studio act to a great live act, they were forced to rap their songs while going on long jogs so they never lost their breath on stage and it seems .Paak took a similar route. Seriously, I can’t overstate how much energy he had and how great of a dancer he is, it is an impressive spectacle to behold.
.Paak talked about how great it was to be back in “The 6” and was proud of how multicultural the crowd was featuring plenty of Black, White, Asian, Latino and other faces, himself being a mix of Black and Korean heritage. One of the many talents .Paak possesses is being an excellent drummer and on the third song, Drugs, he jumped behind his kit at the front of the stage and jammed away, once again never losing his spot in the song. After playing his popular song The Season/Carry Me about his first pair of Jordan’s given to him by his mother he talked about the inspiration behind it and what his family means to him in a spoken word poem like fashion as he continued to drum a beat for himself. His Jazzy meets Afrobeat backing band The Free Nationals made every song instantly danceable with a faster beat than his sometimes slow grooving LP sounds like.
It seemed like almost the entirety of Malibu was played as other favourites including The Bird, Heart Don’t Stand A Chance and Put Me Thru were all played. After leaving the stage for a brief moment That Part by ScHoolboy Q came over the speakers and .Paak spent the next few minutes dancing to the song (.Paak appears on Q’s newest album singing backing vocals on TorcH). Getting the crowd to cheer for Kaytranada again, .Paak let everyone know that the opening act produced Lite Weight when busting it out. .Paak shouted at the crowd how he heard “you have a strict curfew at 11pm, so I’m going to keep playing until they kick me off” and he kept his promise as his sent ended up being around 90 minutes and seemingly longer than his usual tour stops.
Playing some older material as well, and nearing the end of his set he played Luh You, and got the crowd to chant the chorus back at him over and over again. People talk about the greatest rappers, or vocalists and one thing that is often not mentioned is the pure vocal ability to cut through a dense and bass heavy beat to make his mark. Anderson .Paak’s voice is a little nasally and he is able to hit some pretty high notes making his voice unique, but no matter who is producing his music, whether it is Dr. Dre, Madlib or Kaytranada he ensures that his vocals are front and centre making him one of the best talents working today. Speaking of Kaytranada, .Paak played GLOWED UP again, stopped it during the first verse to restart as he felt the hyped up crowd, just wasn’t hyped up enough. The ability to make people dance with such confidence is just one of the many skills .Paak has, and if he wasn’t mainstream enough, look to 2017 as the year he takes over the whole world.