Published Sep 23, 2013Gracious guests and good vibrations rippled across Manifesto's seventh annual Festival of Community and Culture as the Toronto community sprawled across the downtown core to celebrate the pioneers and future stars of the hip-hop scene. B-boys glided across hardwood floors as Dundas Square transformed into a concrete venue.
Starting at noon Manifesto kept things moving, opening with the Keep Rocking You dance competition before the soulful, Veronica Domingues slowed things down against the cool fall weather with music from her appropriately named new EP, Just Chill. However, like leaves caught in a breeze, more people started to gather as Solitair came with a full deck of friends putting on a solid performance that would set the tone for the rest of the night.
Despite the threat of rain as evening approached, audience members weren't concerned, as electro outfit THUGLI controlled the crowd with grandiose bass lines and humming synths that had a dividing effect on the growing audience. A Manifesto veteran in his own right, plaid-clad rapper Raz Fresco took to the stage with Blake Carrington to keep up the tempo. Despite their lightning fast delivery and engaging performances, members of the crowd reacted indifferently to the duo's efforts. Durham region's Sean Leon took the stage with a surprising amount of supporters in the crowd. Armed with a confident on stage-person and a hint of swagger, Leon's performance felt flaccid at times against the hard percussion hits and trap snares of his new music. Trio Notes to Self kept thing fresh as they engaged in a display of lyrical gymnastics over Kendrick Lamar's "Backseat Freestyle," circling around the stage as if there was an imaginary bonfire. However, it was the unannounced guests that were able to make the biggest splash.
"T DOT!!," screamed a familiar voice in his trademark patois-laced yell, as Toronto's very own Kardinal Offishall took to the stage before Shad appeared on stage to continue the salvo of surprises from the festival with fan-favourite "Rose Garden." The two moved the crowd with considerable ease that the less seasoned artists lacked. Equally a celebration of the culture as a statement of its importance across the world, the two issued a moment of silence for those slain during the recent attacks in Nairobi. While, the day was punctuated with good times and mutual respect, it was telling that the artists could take the time to address ills across the world.
Peace and love would remain the focus as the John Lennon loving co-headlining act Jhene Aiko (pictured) took to the stage. Garbed in a decorative orange and green cut off kimono outfit, Aiko drew the night's biggest crowd as she slinked across the stage singing the Drake-assisted "July." The singer's soft and wispy soprano vocals captured the attention of the audience as she cradled the mic for her opening set. Eventually, the star asked the audience to join her in the marijuana- inspired "Higher," inviting audience members to join her natural high. Although, the faint smell of cannabis in the air indicated some took her sentiments literally. Shedding her coy shell she broke into her rapping alter ego, J. Hennessey, speeding through a series of close-quipped verses before ending the show with "Stranger." However, fans of the "golden era" of hip-hop were quickly reintroduced to a group of familiar faces.
Literally, like a changing of the guard, the younger fans of Aiko receded as the older generation rose to the front for of the lyrically heralded Souls of Mischief to close the festival. The group opened with the anthem "That's When Ya Lost It," as Tajai boasted, "Yo, I find it fun to smash MCs into fine bits. So, why I ain't get my just desserts for all the kids I busted, huh?" The frivolous foursome moved confidently across the stage going through tracks like, "Never No More." while making a brief aside to share they made it past the Canadian border in ten minutes (which is really to be commended). Inevitably, Tajai, Phesto, A-plus, and Opio would close it with "93 Till Infinity" pulling the curtains on their energetic set. However, before bowing out, the group reminded audience members to promote love, peace, and understanding.