Concert Review: Manifesto Festival 2013 at Dundas Square in Toronto, ON

Manifesto is a four-day long hip-hop culture festival that includes various displays of art, speaker panels, lectures, and is wrapped up by a free concert in Dundas Square.  Although this was the 7th annual festival, it was only my second time going.  Last year I had a great time; I sat in on a lecture/lesson about the art of performing taught by Shad and Jully Black, got to meet Shad, and got my TSOL cd autographed.  I also attended the concert that featured a surprise appearance by Tha Alkoholiks & The Beatnuts performing together as LikNuts, and was headlined by a collaborative performance between Pharoahe Monch & Badbadnotgood.

This year I only attended the concert, which was headlined by a couple of artists that I didn’t know that much about: Jhene Aiko and Souls of Mischief.  Jhene Aiko is a fairly new R&B singer and while I had never heard any of her solo work before the concert, I have enjoyed every guest feature I’ve heard her on, which include Ab-Soul’s Control System album, J. Cole’s Born Sinner and Drake’s new Nothing Was The Same album.  Souls of Mischief is a different case; they were here celebrating their 20th anniversary of their classic album 93 Til Infinity.  It’s embarrassing for me to admit that I only started listening to them about a month before the show, but I’m a big fan of them and Hieroglyphics now.

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When I got to Dundas Square, Manifesto’s annual dance competition was just wrapping up, and what followed was a showcase of some of the best hip-hop Toronto has ever had to offer.  First Maestro Fresh Wes came out, who apparently had a show the previous night celebrating the 25th anniversary of his music career.  While he didn’t perform, he introduced DJ Mel Boogie as she set off her own 20th anniversary celebration by bringing out some of Toronto’s best female emcees and R&B singers including Eternia and Jully Black.  The emcees had the crowd hyped as they rapped over M.O.P.’s “Ante Up” beat and Eternia jumped into the crowd, then Jully Black stole the show with a performance of her classic “Sweat Of Your Brow”.

Next up was the Kenyan Boys Choir, which I thought was a questionable choice having them perform after that awesome set we just saw.  They did their thing, bringing their own culture to the stage with singing and bongo drums before Kardinal Offishall came out to join them for a surprise performance (see the pic above).  After that set, this young teenager named Mustafa Ahmed came out to do a really thought-provoking spoken-word poem.  I remember he did a similar performance at last year’s festival, and the crowd really appreciated his words.

Now it was time for the surprise performance.  Last year’s festival had LikNuts come out to perform “Grumpy Crocodile”; this year, they kept it Canadian by bringing Shad out!  I had just seen Shad a month ago when he opened for Macklemore & Ryan Lewis at Echo Beach, and I think he had come out to “Rose Garden” that time too.  What I really liked this time was he performed the new single, “Stylin” off his upcoming Flying Colours album.  It’s probably my second-favourite Shad song behind “Yaa I Get It” 🙂

When Jhene Aiko came out on stage, I think every straight male in the crowd fell in love right then and there; I know I did.  She looks as beautiful in person as she sounds, and she let her personality shine both through her music and her between-song interludes.  As previously mentioned, this was my first time experiencing any of her solo work in any form, and I really enjoyed it (a rare effect for R&B singers to have on me).  She’s not all about typical love songs that usually bore the hell out of me; love songs were actually a very small part of her set, and she has a voice that actually made hers tolerable for me.  What surprised me is she can rap too, and she’s pretty good at it.  I will have to check out her album.

Next was the main headliner of the festival: Souls of Mischief.  While I’m still not schooled on them enough to remember every song title or know all the words to the songs, I still recognized a lot of them and enjoyed hearing them live.  They performed tracks from their own albums as well as the Hieroglyphics albums, and they rocked the crowd while doing it.  What was great about this is you could see the synergy these guys have from performing together for twenty years, and could feel it in their stage presence.  It should be noted that A-Plus didn’t show up (for reasons unknown at this point), but Opio, Phesto and Tajai still put on a hell of a show.  They also mentioned that they have a new single being released next week produced by RZA (Hiero + Wu-Tang!!!!!), so be on the lookout for that 🙂

For more videos from concerts I’ve been to, check out the Youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjiIhS7fd3t1ZutK1va7w8g

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